Dig Safe Enforcement Program
Enforcement of the Underground Damage Prevention Program is administered by the Safety Division of the NH PUC.
The Safety Division enforces the requirements, imposing mandatory training and assessing civil penalties when appropriate. While compliance is the ultimate objective, civil penalties are sometimes necessary to ensure compliance. The maximum penalty for EACH violation of the law or rule infraction is $5,000.
Damage to underground infrastructure may involve more than one potential violation.
NHPUC Safety Division Enforcement Process
Whenever underground infrastructure that provides services such as electric, cable, water, gas, telecommunications, and other providers of essential public services is damaged, or when an excavator or utility discovers a potential violation of the New Hampshire Underground Damage Prevention regulations, it is required that a report be filed of the damage or potential violation with the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission’s Safety Division. At the NHPUC Safety Division, each damage and potential violation is reviewed and appropriate actions taken. New Hampshire Administrative Rule Puc 807 establishes the criteria to be used in determining whether or not to assess a civil penalty and the amount of penalty to be assessed.
The criteria are: the gravity of the violation, history of prior violations, degree of culpability of the respondent, how quickly the respondent took action to rectify the situation, cooperativeness of respondent, and any other factors which would tend to either aggravate or mitigate the violation.
Violators, who are alleged to have not notified Dig Safe or 811 prior to excavating, if they have no history of prior violations, are usually given the opportunity to avoid civil penalty if they attend a Safety Division provided training session. These are offered at no cost at the NHPUC offices at 21 So Fruit St., Concord NH.
Typically, violators who have previously committed underground damage prevention violations will likely be assessed a civil penalty. A notice of probable violation is sent to the violator, and they have 30 days to pay the civil penalty. Civil penalty payments can be made online here.
If an excavator (including homeowners) or operator of the service provider believes that the notice of probable violation was issued erroneously they can request an Informal Conference with the Safety Division. During an Informal Conference, the party is given the opportunity to present any evidence they wish. The Safety Division will hear the appeal, and issue a written decision and the case is closed.
Lastly an appeal process is in place for any written decisions that are still contested. Although this option is rarely used, the written decision can then be appealed to the Commissioners of the NHPUC. If this option is chosen a formal docket will be assigned to hear the case, public notice will be required, the case will be argued before a panel of Commissioners who will then make the final determination. Any civil penalties assessed shall be final and are strictly enforced
Quarterly results of Enforcement Actions for Dig Safe Violations are shown below.
2017 (January – December) Reported Probable Violations or Damages that were subject to enforcement
2016 (January – December) Reported Probable Violations or Damages that were subject to enforcement
2015 (January – December) Reported Probable Violations or Damages that were subject to enforcement
2014 (January – December) Reported Probable Violations or Damages that were subject to enforcement.