After the Strike…The Notice of Probable Violation

The potential of an underground utility strike is considerably high.  In fact, The Common Grounds Alliance reported 37,562 utility damages in Georgia in 2016, of which 62% were caused by insufficient excavation practices. Utility strikes, the damage caused, the interruptions of services, and the cost associated with repair are not the only high anxiety situations to deal with; we must also consider what State regulations and laws are violated in the damage of accurately marked facilities.

The Georgia Public Service Commission’s GUFPA unit is tasked with enforcing The Georgia Dig Law, a set of rules governing underground utility facilities.  Each utility damage in the State of Georgia is reported by the utility owner to the Georgia Public Service Commission’s GUFPA unit. GUFPA, then investigates the damage to discover what Dig Law rules were violated. Each investigation involves reviewing damage reports, and onsite investigation reports taken by the excavator and the utility owner. This information is reviewed, and cross referenced with Dig Law rules to find, if any, violations of The Dig law. If such violations are discovered the GUFPA unit will contact the excavator with a Notice of Probable Violation. This notice is an official notification of a utility damage, the Dig Law violations, and the necessary steps to address the damage incident.

Receiving a Notice of Probable Violation (NOPV) from the Public Service Commission can cause some anxiety as with any citation received. But, avoiding the notice is not the answer. The Public Service Commission wants to help you resolve NOPV matter and encourages you to contact them as soon as you receive a notice. The GUFPA utility investigators will help you navigate process.

To understand the NOPV process better, please view the questions and answers from the NOPV FAQ sheet below:

Why are you receiving this letter?

You are receiving the attached information because our office (The Georgia Public Service Commission/ Facilities Protection Division) has been notified by a utility owner or operator that you have damaged their facility and have been submitted as having possibly violated one or more parts of the GA Dig Law.
What is the GA Dig Law (also known as The Georgia Utility Facility Protection Act (GUFPA))?

The Georgia Utility Facility Protection Act (GUFPA), enacted by the General Assembly in July 2000, provides for the protection of the buried utility facility infrastructure within the State of Georgia. Excavators using mechanized equipment are required to call for a utility facility locate prior to excavating with mechanized equipment or blasting. Upon receipt of a locate request, each affected facility owner/operator must locate their respective utility facilities. Violations of the GUFPA are subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 each violation. For the full version   of   the   Act   please   visit   our   website    at

I have paid for the damages to the utility company. Why am I getting something from the PSC?

Damages paid for repairs to utility facilities are separate from the civil penalties assessed for violation(s) of GA’s Dig Law. Although you may have paid for the damaged utility facility, you are now being assessed a civil penalty for probable violation(s) of the GA Dig Law.

How has an Investigation been completed, and I was not contacted before now?

Utility owner/operators are mandated by Commission Rule to report ALL damages to their facilities. Utility owner/operators are to conduct an investigation of the damage and any resulting probable violation(s) prior to submitting the probable violation to the PSC. PSC Staff Investigators will assign each case a number and send out a Notice of Probable Violation (“NOPV’) to the Respondent in order to 1) notify the Respondent of the alleged probable violation(s) and 2) request a written response and supporting documents that show a Respondent’s side of the story.

I do NOT agree with the probable violation alleged. How do I tell my side?

Once you have reviewed the information included in this package you have 30 days from the date listed on the letter to respond in writing, to each alleged probable violation and to provide all evidence you wish to submit in support thereof.

What are my response Options?

There are several ways you can respond to the probable violation:

  • Send in a written statement by mail, fax, or email of the events as you recall them. Send in any pictures or other documentation you may have along with witness statements if avail Use the questionnaire attached to the NOPV packet as a guide for your written statement.
  • If you agree with the investigation, please sign and date the attached consent agreement and mail or fax it back to our office.
  • Contact our office and speak with your investigator (you must still submit your statement in writing).

What happens after I submit my response?

Your investigator will review your information along with the information that was submitted by the utility owner/operator and will determine/complete their investigation based upon their findings and will contact you either by mail, email, or phone call of their conclusion.

What happens if the investigator still finds me in violation after I have submitted my response, and I still do NOT agree?

You may request to appear before the GUFPAAC (Georgia Utility Facility Protection Act Advisory Committee). The GUFPAAC is comprised of approximately 13 members of industry stakeholders and your peers who will hear and make a recommendation on your case.

What happens if I do NOT respond at all?

After the 30-day response time has expired your case will be set for a Rule N/S / hearing on the Title 25 probable violations of the Dig Law. Your case will be heard by a hearing officer who will issue a recommended order on the merits of your case. If the hearing officer finds that the probable violation(s) is(are) supported by the evidence, an additional one-thousand dollars will be added to the civil penalty initially recommended by Staff. For Title 25 Rule Nisis, the civil penalties cannot exceed $10,000.00 per violation.

How do I contact the PSC?

Mailing address:

244 Washington Street, SW Atlanta, GA 30334
Phone: 404-463-6526
Fax: 404-463-6532

Dig Safety: Awareness and Preparedness

Every 4 minutes an underground utility is struck and damaged by mechanized equipment, potentially causing harm to people/property, and interrupting utility services. The Common Ground Alliance, a stakeholder-run organization dedicated to protecting underground utility lines, reports approximately 379,000 utility damages occurred in 2016 resulting in an estimated cost of 1.7 billion in property damage as well as countless number of injuries and deaths.

Why are there so many underground utility strikes?  According to the Common Grounds Alliance there are several re-occurring causes: Notification not made to the One-Call-Center, insufficient locating practices, unmarked facilities, miss-marked utilities, inadequate utility marking, inadequate excavation practices, improper bidding of jobs, improper equipment used during digging, digging with mechanized equipment without first exposing buried utilities using manual digging methods, and the list goes on.

Utility damages impact everyone directly or indirectly. Contractors are affected in terms of a break down in safety, profitability, insure-ability, productivity, legal and civil liabilities. Utility Owner/Operators are affected in terms of utility repairs and loss of resources. Lastly, everyone is inconvenienced by the interruption of vital utility services.

Excavators, locators, utility owners, and the Utility Protection Center all share equal responsibility in the avoidance of utility strikes. There are some best practices that should be adopted to mitigate utility damages. these practices are:

  • Start at the very beginning: Employees should be trained properly on locating underground utilities, the correct use of equipment, and digging techniques. This includes when to use radar to detect the presence of underground lines and hand-digging and soft-digging techniques. They should also emphasize the correct type of equipment to use for every situation during the excavation.
  • Contractors should follow job site checklists and provide adequate on-site supervision as well as ongoing safety awareness and training.
  • Estimate jobs properly: Job estimates should include costs for allowing the time to locate underground utilities and verify marking, document 811 marking, dig around lines, use radar, and have downtime in the event of a strike.
  • Review the site plans and call 811 at least 48 hours before digging. Check the Positive Response Information System to verify excavation request has been processed.
  • Review flags and markings prior to starting the job to determine the proper equipment for the job.
  • Identify, if possible, whether there may be additional lines that are not on site plans and/or are not marked.
  • Document the job site with photographs prior to commencement of digging, taking photos of flags and markings and showing the scale of where you’re digging.
  • Don’t assume the depth of utilities. Digging at a deeper depth than marked utilities does not always solve the problem. If you aren’t sure, dig slower and use manual tools to expose the utility and determine the tolerance zone.
  • Most important, use your industry knowledge, common sense and always keep a focus on safety!

The cost of utility damages is a trickle-down effect that is paid by us all. Having a clear excavation plan and knowing what below can save lives, money time and property.  If we all do our part everyone wins.

Reggie Nelson