Reducing, and eventually eliminating, instances of excavation damage should be the underlying goal of every Damage Prevention program. There are a number of parties involved in every excavation project – facility owners and operators, locate companies, One Call centers, and excavators. Plus, there are multiple governmental bodies and industry groups who set rules and best practices that contribute to any given Damage Prevention program.

In order to build the strongest possible program, each government body, i.e. each state and the federal government must set firm rules and strictly enforce them. However, it is equally important that industry – those people on the ground with the most hands on experience – continues to set and improve standards and best practices providing guidance on what it takes to do the job correctly. At the end of 2015, one industry group, the National Utility Locating Contractors Association (NULCA), did exactly that.

More specifically, NULCA introduced a new locator training accreditation program. According to Damage Prevention Professional magazine:

The accreditation program is designed to help regulators, utilities, facility owners, contractors and other stakeholders certify underground locating professionals through training programs that
 have been verified as being consistent with industry best practices by meeting NULCA’s widely recognized Professional Competence Standards for Locating Technicians.

While no such program is required under law, NULCA president Greg Jeffries points out that state and federal regulators, utility operators and other interested parties have been yearning for a credible process for “validating the competencies of locating professionals.” On top of improving locator quality generally, the accreditation program will help locate firms demonstrate that their employees met industry standards, and that they meet the quality requirements of potential clients when responding to requests for proposals.

NSF International (NSF), a globally respected standard writing organization, will independently validate each NULCA accreditation training program.  In addition to acting an independent auditor of program quality, NSF’s involvement will help keep program materials and documentation fresh and up to date. Under the new system, each program is required to submit documents and materials outlining their training requirements, and NSF will determine whether the program materials “meet the requirements set forth in the NULCA Competence Standards.”

These Competence Standards require the program to address 10 components:

  1. Basic Locating Theory
  2. Use of the Transmitter
  3. Use of the Receiver
  4. Marking Procedures
  5. Knowledge of Facilities
  6. Visual Observation Skills
  7. Safe Work Practices and Regulations
  8. One Call Regulation, Requests, and Documentation
  9. Excavator and Customer Relations
  10. Locating Pipelines

This program has already received strong reviews and accolades by industry and interested parties. More importantly, it is a serious, tangible step towards improving safety. If combined with other efforts to improve communication between parties, strengthen Damage Prevention laws at the state and federal level, and increase enforcement for all non compliant actors, reduced incident rates could be right around the bend.