Public Act 174, The New MISS DIG Act Signed Into Law!
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Posted by: Sara Jacobs
The MISS DIG Act was originally established in 1974 and has since governed utility locating throughout Michigan. The original form of the law was written by utility owners and thus, was very lopsided when it came to assessing liability regarding damage responsibility. Essentially, if you hit an underground facility, in most cases you were sent a claim for damages. In the late 1990’s, the then AUC voiced its concerns with the legislature, which was reluctant to change the law. Legislative leaders then requested that the contracting community and facility owners work out differences and bring revised language back to the legislature at a later date.
The Michigan Damage Prevention Board (MDPB) was formed in 2000, which consisted of numerous stakeholders and was chaired by former AUC and MITA Executive Vice-President, Bob Patzer, and is now currently chaired by MITA Vice-President of Member Services, Rob Coppersmith. The mission of the newly formed group was to develop a new public act through a contractual arrangement known as the “Best Practices” for utility locating. The concept was to allow for the industry to work under a contract that could be changed over time based on the performance of the provisions set forth in the Best Practices. If a provision wasn’t working for either party the item could be renegotiated by the Damage Prevention Board. It took three years to develop the first “Best Practices” contract, it was then amended in 2005 to add further agreed upon provisions and has since been the industry standard.
After numerous years of a steady reduction of damages for those working under the contract, the focus then turned toward codifying the “Best Practices” into law. After months of heated legislative debate and numerous committee hearings, the bill gained momentum and passed both chambers with overwhelming support.
Although the vast majority of MITA members had previously signed on to the contract, there were some significant changes put into the new public act that benefit the industry. Under the new law the biggest change from the Best Practices contract is that every owner must now adhere to the MISS DIG requirements. Each municipality will be required to mark all of its underground facilities in a locatable manner (other than service leads). In addition, local units of government will no longer have immunity if they damage a utility that was accurately marked. Conversely, contractors will no longer be subject to the claims associated with any damage to a utility that is not marked properly.
Another major change that took place during the legislative process is that the caution zone was changed from 60” to 48”, thus allowing contractors to excavate another foot closer to a marked facility before hand digging would be required. Also, MITA advocated and gained the needed support to ensure that all new facilities in the future be installed in a manner that would be locatable with tracer wire. This is an important safety measure for the industry and will help simplify locating efforts in the future.
In the end, this 15-year process is great news for the industry! A complete synopsis of the events that led to this huge MITA victory will be unveiled in the next issue of the MITA magazine.
For a comparison of the new law, click here, and for a copy of the actual new Public Act, click here. Contact the MITA staff at (517) 347-8336 with any questions or concerns.