Case studies 2020-02-14T21:24:35+00:00

Case studies—learn from these mistakes

Take a lesson from these unfortunate true stories about job site mistakes. The “Don’t do what they did!” links will take you to relevant safety information on this site, so you can prevent similar tragedies.

A man in a hurry

A Missouri contractor who called before digging hit a 6-inch high-pressure gas line in an industrial park. He was told the gas company would be locating a line at the site, but he began digging the day before the date set for marking. The line was capped within two hours of the accident, and fortunately there were no injuries or damage. (Source: Underground Focus magazine)

Always notify 811 well in advance of digging.
If you plan to dig, blast, bore, trench, drill, grade, excavate, or move earth in any way, state law requires you to notify 811 prior to the start of any digging. This free service will arrange the marking of underground natural gas lines and other buried utilities in the area of your planned work so you can dig a safe distance away from them. Dial 811 or enter an online locate request, then wait the required time for lines to be marked: three business days in Pennsylvania and two business days in West Virginia. Before you call, pre-mark your excavation area with white paint, flags, and/or stakes so locators can easily identify and mark affected utilities.

Watch out for pipeline markers that indicate the need for extra care around a natural gas transmission line.
Keep in mind that, for security purposes, these markers do not indicate the depth of pipelines or their exact locations. In addition, not all pipelines follow a straight path between markers.

The markers provide a toll-free number for reporting problems 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call this number if you notice any unusual or suspicious activities nearby or if you see construction-related activity and no utility personnel are on-site.

Maps can also be viewed to identify the approximate locations of major natural gas pipelines. 
To view these maps, visit the National Pipeline Mapping System website.

Pipeline markers and maps indicate only a general location of pipelines.
They should never be used as a substitute for calling 811 well in advance of digging.

Dial 811 or use the online ticket-entry system before you dig so underground utilities can be marked for your safety.

Know what's below. 811 before you dig.

Worker with jackhammer

Shocking fact:

You must notify the one-call center at least three working days before work begins in Pennsylvania and at least two working days in West Virginia. If you don’t call far enough in advance, and you hit an underground utility, you risk not only injury but also costly damages and possibly criminal charges.

Always call 911 after a utility hit

A Minnesota contractor severed a buried natural gas pipeline with digging equipment. He reported the leak to his supervisor, but did not call 911 or the local utility company. Within 40 minutes, gas migrated into a nearby building and exploded, killing four people, injuring eleven, and destroying six buildings. (Source: National Transportation Safety Board)

Report all gas pipeline contacts to 911 and Peoples immediately.
There’s no such thing as minor damage to a gas line. What looks like a small nick can result in a major fire and explosion hazard to the surrounding neighborhood. So if you or someone on your crew contacts a natural gas pipeline, take these steps:

  • Warn others, and leave the area immediately.
  • Do not use matches or a lighter, start an engine, or operate any electrical device—even a phone. A spark could ignite the gas, causing a fire or explosion.
  • Leave the excavation open, and do not attempt to stop the flow of gas or fix the pipeline.
  • When you have reached a safe distance, call 911 and Peoples immediately at 1.800.400.4271.
    • Excavators are required by law to call 911 in the event of escaping gas.
    • Call the utility even if there is no visible damage to the pipeline.
  • Stay away from the area until safety officials say it is safe to return.
  • Report the incident to your supervisor.

Never bury a damaged gas pipeline. Trying to cover up an accident can be dangerous, and can lead to costly damages or criminal charges against you or your company.

Shocking fact:
An underground utility contact can happen even if you have dug in the area before or think you know the location of the lines. Landscaping, erosion, or other factors can change the location and depth of underground lines. Notify 811 to have all nearby underground utility lines marked before you begin the job. Dial 811 or enter an online request at least three business days before digging in Pennsylvania, and two business days in West Virginia.

Learn the warning signs of a gas leak:

Peoples adds mercaptan, which has a highly recognizable sulfur-like odor, to natural gas to assist in leak detection. But don’t rely on your nose alone to detect a leak. Use your senses of sight and hearing, as well. Here are the signs:

  • Continuous bubbling in water
  • A hissing, whistling, or roaring sound
  • Dead or dying vegetation (in an otherwise moist area) over or near a pipeline
  • Dirt or water being thrown into the air
  • Exposed pipeline after an earthquake, fire, flood, or other disaster
  • A damaged connection to a gas appliance

If you observe any of the above conditions, call the Peoples emergency phone number at 1.800.400.4271 and 911 from a safe location.

Firefighters

If you smell gas, get out fast

A 39-year-old Canadian woman refused to leave her home despite a gas line rupture and was killed when the gas exploded. The woman’s husband had hit a buried natural gas line while digging footings for a room addition. He went into the house and warned his wife of the gas leak, but she assured him she was safe. The man went back outside to wait for repair technicians to arrive. The explosion knocked the man down, and he was dragged away from the flames by a friend. The woman died in the fire. (Source: Alberta.com news report)

Report all gas pipeline contacts to 911 and Peoples immediately.
There’s no such thing as minor damage to a gas line. What looks like a small nick can result in a major fire and explosion hazard to the surrounding neighborhood. So if you or someone on your crew contacts a natural gas pipeline, take these steps:

  • Warn others, and leave the area immediately.
  • Do not use matches or a lighter, start an engine, or operate any electrical device—even a phone. A spark could ignite the gas, causing a fire or explosion.
  • Leave the excavation open, and do not attempt to stop the flow of gas or fix the pipeline.
  • When you have reached a safe distance, call 911 and Peoples immediately at 1.800.400.4271.
    • Excavators are required by law to call 911 in the event of escaping gas.
    • Call the utility even if there is no visible damage to the pipeline.
  • Stay away from the area until safety officials say it is safe to return.
  • Report the incident to your supervisor.

Never bury a damaged gas pipeline. Trying to cover up an accident can be dangerous, and can lead to costly damages or criminal charges against you or your company.

Shocking fact:
An underground utility contact can happen even if you have dug in the area before or think you know the location of the lines. Landscaping, erosion, or other factors can change the location and depth of underground lines. Notify 811 to have all nearby underground utility lines marked before you begin the job. Dial 811 or enter an online request at least three business days before digging in Pennsylvania, and two business days in West Virginia.

Learn the warning signs of a gas leak:

Peoples adds mercaptan, which has a highly recognizable sulfur-like odor, to natural gas to assist in leak detection. But don’t rely on your nose alone to detect a leak. Use your senses of sight and hearing, as well. Here are the signs:

  • Continuous bubbling in water
  • A hissing, whistling, or roaring sound
  • Dead or dying vegetation (in an otherwise moist area) over or near a pipeline
  • Dirt or water being thrown into the air
  • Exposed pipeline after an earthquake, fire, flood, or other disaster
  • A damaged connection to a gas appliance

If you observe any of the above conditions, call the Peoples emergency phone number at 1.800.400.4271 and 911 from a safe location.