FeedBack: Professional Surveyors and Utility Locations

Just a few thoughts that are prompted by your “Thought Leader” article “Professional Surveyors and Utility Locations.”

The laws which prompted “Dig Safe” laws were prompted by the tenuous relationship between utility companies and contractors when excavating in the area of underground utilities.

Prior to instituting laws which specifically addressed the problem, the adjudication by the courts when a contractor “dug” up wires or pipes often depended on a judge deciding whether a utility company or contractor was responsible, based on a simple theory. The theory was: If a contractor called a utility company ahead of time, and the utility company did not respond, the utility company was responsible for damages. If the contractor dug without notifying the utility company, the contractor was responsible for damages.

In New England, the laws and rules regarding digging in the area of underground utilities began in the early 1970’s and are constantly being revised and updated.

In Maine, the “Dig Safe” Laws and Rules take up 39 pages and have 50 Sections, with more than 140 subsections. NO WHERE in those 39 pages are the words: Surveyor, Professional Surveyor or Land Surveyor used! I am referring to the 2014 Laws and Rules.

On April 17, 2018, the Massachusetts legislature recommended the following: that in Chapter 82, Section 5, Section 40B, “insert after the words “the excavator” the following words:—“or Professional Surveyor.” In other words, that portion would then read: “Within 72 hours, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, from the time the initial notice is received by the system, or at such time as the company and the excavator or Professional Land Surveyor agree, such company shall respond to the initial notice…”

Back in 2001, Knud Hermansen wrote a brief two page article titled “Digsafe—Surveyors Beware!” It came after many angry utility companies, contractors and surveyors argued about who was responsible for digging up underground utilities.

Thanks for reminding surveyors about this important subject and how it affects them.

David C. Garcelon
Harpswell, Maine