Representatives from John Deere Construction & Forestry, the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) rang the ceremonial closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on August 20, to promote awareness of underground utilities through the use of the national 811 call-before-you-dig phone number. Though awareness and use of 811 has significantly decreased the number of underground utility strikes in the United States, the fact that there are still fatalities and damages from hitting gas and utility lines underscores the need for a continued safety campaign.
“It’s not enough that the number of strikes has decreased in each of the last five years, because even one strike is too many,” said Bob Kipp, president of the CGA.
In 2004, it was estimated that there were 450,000 instances of damage from striking underground lines. However, as a result of the work of CGA and its many supporters, that number has decreased by more than 60 percent to 170,000 damages in 2009.
“Through our support of CGA and 811, we strengthen our commitment to our customers. Our customers are our first focus and this initiative saves lives,” said Michael Mack, worldwide president, John Deere Construction & Forestry.
“Beyond personal safety concerns, the potential property damage, inconvenient service outages and the hefty fines to equipment operators resulting from digging accidents makes the 811 service incredibly valuable.”
To further encourage safe digging, John Deere also is sharing portions of safety videos on YouTube. The first video, featuring excavators, will be posted at http://www.YouTube.com/JohnDeere.
The FCC-designated 811 number was launched in 2007 by the CGA to eliminate the confusion of multiple call-before-you-dig numbers that were being used across the country. As a result, homeowners, farmers and contractors can call one easy-to-remember number to have crews mark a requested site for underground lines prior to any excavation.
Deere helped spread the word when the 811 number was first established in 2007 and also has been a driving force behind National 811 Day (each Aug. 11) and the “Safe Digging Month” awareness campaign that occurs each spring. In addition to including information about 811 on its web site, the company has featured the 811 logo prominently in its advertising and as part of its booth display during some of the construction industry’s most prominent trade shows.
The DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration Administrator, Cynthia Quarterman, also was on hand at the bell-ringing event to lend support.
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