There have been 98 trench accidents in Georgia within the last year, and five of these accidents have resulted in fatalities.
More than half of these trench accidents were the outcome of unregulated and unlicensed contractors performing utility system work.
As a result of these accidents, many legislators, including Rep. Alan Powell, SEn.. Mitch Seabaugh and Sen. Casey Cagle, as well as licensed utility contractors in Georgia decided to be more proactive in their approach to stop unlicensed utility activity and the resulting accidents. Many of the accidents are the result of a lack of education and general knowledge of excavation laws and best practices, according to the Georgia Utility Contractors Association (GUCA).
In the 2004 Georgia Legislative Session, language was introduced and passed to strengthen the utility contractor licensing law (House bill 1300). On May 13, Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the bill, which greatly affects utility contractors throughout the state:
The definition of utility contractor has changed. The new definition has NO dollar threshold for utility contracting, which means anyone bidding on utility contracting work must have a utility contractor’s license.
The definition of a utility system has been changed to help clarify what actually comprises a utility system. This has been identified by two components: underground piping placement and plant work.
• Underground piping is placement of any underground gas distribution, electrical distribution, communicative, water supply, or sanitary sewer and drainage systems that are 5 ft. (1.5 cm) underground, installed by various construction methods and that are installed or accessed from the ground surface.
• Plant Work is any reservoir and filtration plant; water and waste-water treatment plants, leachate collection and treatment system associated with landfills; and pump station.
• Both components must distribute, collect or dispose of a service, product or commodity for which a fee or price is paid for that product or commodity.
Fines will be assessed for violators of these codes. Fines can be assessed up to $10,000. Anyone caught advertising in such a way that the general public would believe that they are licensed utility contractors when they are not actually licensed will be in violation of the code. Also, anyone knowingly hiring a non-licensed utility contractor to do utility contracting work will be in violation of this code section.
For more information, call 478/207-1300 or visit www.legis.state.ga.us and click on “Georgia Code” and “Georgia Code 43-14.”
GUCA Elected to 2004 Associations Advance America Honor Roll
Georgia Utility Contractors Association Inc. (GUCA) has been elected to the 2004 Associations Advance America Honor Roll, a national awards competition sponsored by the American Society of Association Executives.
GUCA received the award for its Trench Rescue Seminar, which aims to help educate and train county fire departments in trench rescues.
In March, GUCA held a three-day trench rescue course in Temple, GA, for the Carroll County Fire Department. The first day of training involved classroom education. Simulations of trench rescues were demonstrated for attendees during the next two days.
By holding trench rescue training courses in different counties around the state, GUCA hopes to inform both utility contractors and the public on the proper steps to take during a trench rescue as well as the safety precautions to take to avoid trenching accidents.
According to GUCA, through educational efforts, such as this, job sites in Georgia can become secure places to work. This education and training awareness is also essential because many fire departments do not have the necessary tools and expertise needed for trench rescue situations.
The organization said the seminars bring awareness to both emergency rescue teams and excavators, each group providing their own expertise. GUCA hopes to bridge the gap between the two teams to help avoid future accidents.
In its 14th year, the prestigious Associations Advance America Awards program recognizes associations that propel America forward –– with innovative projects in education, skills training, standards setting, business and social innovation, knowledge creation, citizenship and community service. Although association activities have a powerful impact on everyday life, they often go unnoticed by the general public.
“GUCA’s program truly embodies the spirit of the Associations Advance America campaign. It is an honor and an inspiration to showcase this activity as an example of the many contributions associations are making to advance American society,” said Associations Advance America Committee chair Kris Cook, executive director of the National Affordable Housing Management Association.
Georgia Utility Contractors Association Inc. is a non-profit state trade association located in metro Atlanta. Representing more than 475 utility contractors and affiliated firms statewide, GUCA members provide the materials and workforce to build and maintain the state’s network of water, sewer, gas, telecommunications and other utility systems.
For more information, visit www.guca.com.