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New Minnesota law aimed at enhancing utility worker safety

Photo: Catherine McQueen/gettyimages

St. Paul, MN — Legislation recently signed into law by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) updates excavation safety statutes with utility worker safety in mind.

Part of the Transportation Policy Omnibus Bill (H.F. 3436) signed on May 15, the legislation affects Chapter 216D of state excavation safety statutes.

Starting Aug. 1, the standard 48-hour window that utility operators have to locate underground lines after a request will begin at 12:01 a.m. the day after a request is made. The window still will exclude weekends and holidays.

As an alternative, an excavator and utility operator may agree on a mutually acceptable period for locates to be completed and work to begin on a jobsite, which must be documented with Minnesota’s Gopher State One Call system.

State law requires white markings be made for all excavations. Starting Aug. 1 and before Jan. 1, 2026, markings must be physically made onsite, but can also be supplemented with an equivalent electronic marking description.

After Jan. 1, 2026, an excavator can provide electronic markings as an alternative to physical ones – if the electronic markings provide the same level of information.

Beginning Aug. 1, the state will allow black markings to be used during wintery conditions.

“At its core, this legislation is about safety,” Laura Ziegler, director of highway/heavy and government affairs for Associated General Contractors of Minnesota, said in a statement.

She added that the changes are long overdue. “State statute in 2024 is based on outdated technology and processes for marking and mapping underground infrastructure. There haven’t been significant updates in almost 40 years. This often leaves contractors and project owners in the dark.”

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