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 www.psc.state.qa.us.

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

HB NEXT Expands Workforce Development to Bermuda

HB NEXT Expands Workforce Development to Bermuda

Atlanta, GA:  HB NEXT, a construction compliance and support services firm, is excited to announce they have been asked by Bermudian workforce development government officials to train citizens for careers in construction. Bermuda is working on many important construction projects, including a new international airport, with projects for new hotels and a new convention center not far behind. In response to these needs, HB NEXT is deploying a seven-week program for structural steel/ironworker training, which will aid in creating a sustainable construction workforce in Bermuda.  Upon conclusion of the structural ironworking program this summer, HB NEXT will then set course towards the expansion of their award-winning, metro Atlanta-based workforce development program Construction Ready. They will work closely with a local university in Bermuda to provide entry-level training and skills for new construction workers.  Seeking to replicate the workforce development efforts and the example set by the Construction Ready program, Bermuda is looking to HB NEXT to train and develop their local college educators; these, in turn, will train students in preparation for placement into entry-level construction opportunities on the island.

Bermuda’s population is approximately 65,000 people, with an unemployment rate of 6%.  The country is going through a rapid construction boom.  Projections indicate over 400 available jobs on the international airport project alone.  With HB NEXT’s Workforce Development Programs, Bermuda residents will be able to learn a skill, earn credentials and become readily employable in the construction industry.  Bermudian officials project that 30% of those unemployed will be able to join this program.  This will reduce the unemployment rate and enable the use of (local) skilled labor for the ongoing development and maintenance of their communities.

Bermuda’s Minister of Home Affairs, the Hon. Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, commented, “This is another initiative that the Department of Workforce Development and the Construction Association of Bermuda have successfully implemented to equip and train Bermudians for jobs in the industry.  Based on the findings of the team, it was determined that more local credentialed Structural Steel Erectors are required in Bermuda. This opportunity serves to minimize the issuance of work permits over time. Upon completion of the program, participants will be in a stronger position to apply for work opportunities. The demand for credentialed professionals today is unprecedented.  Local and overseas organizations are placing greater emphasis on the importance of certifications. These individuals will undoubtedly become pace-setters and role models to their peers in the industry.“

As the HB NEXT program grows among citizens in Bermuda, it will expand into other trade skill areas such as drywall, carpentry, reinforcement steel and other essential construction specialties.  HB NEXT CEO Mark Hornbuckle commented, “We are very excited and honored to assist the country of Bermuda with bringing our Workforce Development Program to their country.  It is great to see this program change people’s lives and communities grow together.  Our team will work to ensure these students are trained and equipped with the necessary skills and safety training to perform their job with confidence and quality work. We’ve been successful here in the Atlanta metro area training people and placing them into construction jobs.  We know our formula can be successful in Bermuda as well.”

HB NEXT is known nationally as the number one partner for compliance and construction support services.  With over 200 years of experiences, the teams at HB NEXT are experts in safety, environmental, training and utility services.  They offer compliance software and legal services to keep your projects compliant and on track.  HB NEXT is a strong force in training and expanding workforce development programs.

To learn more about HB NEXT, visit:  www.hbnext.com

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