California: Pipeline Safety Bill Signed into Law

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sept. 29 signed a bill that establishes tougher safety procedures for excavation work that is conducted near high-risk pipelines carrying flammable fuels such as gasoline and natural gas.

Senate Bill 1359, which was introduced Feb. 21 by state Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, passed in the Senate on Aug. 29 and in the General Assembly on Aug. 24.

Among the bill's requirements:

  • If an excavation is within 10 feet of a "high-priority subsurface installation," the operator of the pipeline installation must notify the excavator of the installation and hold an onsite meeting to verify the location of the installation.
  • Only a "qualified person" one who has completed a safety training program that meets the requirements of California law is allowed to conduct "subsurface installation locating activities."
  • A regional notification center must provide the excavator with the pipeline operator's contact information, and the excavator must notify the pipeline operator or call 9-1-1 when the excavator discovers or causes damage to the pipeline installation.

Torlakson has said the legislation was inspired by a Nov. 9, 2004, pipeline accident at a construction site in Walnut Creek, Calif., that killed five workers. The five workers were killed when a backhoe punctured an underground, high-pressure gasoline pipeline, creating a fireball and explosion.

"We need to make sure that an accident like this never happens again," Torlakson told Occupationalhazards.com. "This bill will improve safety for workers and surrounding communities during excavation near high-risk pipelines."

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