Michigan Legislature Celebrates April as Safe Digging Month

Garrick Rochow, vice president of energy delivery, speaks on the Capitol steps in Lansing as part of the Dig Safely in Michigan event. Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek/Jackson, introduced legislation to incorporate best practices into Public Act 53, the MISS DIG Act.

Surrounded by colorful flags used to mark underground utilities, legislators, other state officials, MISS DIG, Inc., utility and pipeline companies today marked April as Safe Digging Month in Michigan with several legislative proclamations on the Capitol steps.

Legislation was also introduced by Sen. Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek) to update the “MISS DIG Act” or 1974 PA 53 to incorporate excavation and notification best practices that have been tested in Michigan over the past several years and provide for oversight by the Michigan Public Service Commission. If approved, it will mark the first time PA53 has been modified since its inception in 1974.

“These changes to Act 53 are important to provide more safeguards and clarity of the process for excavators, municipalities and utilities as well as the general public,” said Nofs.

Some of the improvements to increase the effectiveness of Act 53 include requiring faster response times when additional assistance is needed for locating underground facilities; providing for an “all clear” positive response by utilities in the area; defining clear limits regarding the use of power excavation equipment versus hand digging; and including MPSC oversight and possible penalties for violations of the act.  The revisions also recognize the voluntary use of “white lining” to mark utility facilities for site planning purposes in advance of excavation.    

Bruce Campbell, executive director of MISS DIG System, Inc. agreed with Nofs.  “As a partner organization of damage prevention professionals, MISS DIG supports the enhancements being introduced today because the goal is to ensure everyone calls 811 then follows accepted best digging practices.”

Utility and state officials were present to share their damage prevention support. In addition, Marco’s Pizza, an 811 partner, offered refreshments and is offering large pizzas for $8.11 on Mondays during April to celebrate National Safe Digging Month.

The 811 partnership between the Michigan legislature and Public Service Commission along with MISS DIG and utilities such as Consumers Energy, DTE Energy, SEMCO Energy and Wolverine Pipeline aims to raise awareness among residents and excavators about the importance of calling 811 before digging.  The ultimate goal is to eliminate dig-in utility damages in Michigan and prevent serious injuries, property damage and loss of service that can result from contacting underground pipes, wires and cables.  

Safety tips for homeowners and contractors include:

For Homeowners:

  • Call 811/MISS DIG at least three working days before beginning to dig to have underground facilities marked.
  • Avoid starting projects until you’re sure all lines are marked. Confirm that all lines have been marked by contacting 811/MISS DIG.
  • When using shovels or power equipment, respect the marks and avoid using mechanized digging equipment near them. Choose another location on the property for a project if the original planned site is near utility line markings.
  • If a contractor has been hired, confirm that a call to 811 has been made. Don’t allow work to begin if the lines aren’t marked.

For Excavation Contractors: