By Joe Igel

As a young teen, when I initially started driving, I did not wear my seatbelt. In truth, given the age of cars I could afford at the time, seatbelts were not even part of the equipment and were certainly not required to be worn, even if they were there. Thus, early in my driving “career,” I never got into the habit.

That changed in the late sixties when I became a delivery and pickup driver for the family business. They provided me with a relatively new pickup truck to drive, one equipped with seat belts and extremely hard bench seats (not broken down by years and miles of service). I wish I could say I changed my behavior with and my attitude towards seatbelts for some altruistic reason, but the truth was, when driving across a rough job site, it was the only way I could keep myself behind the wheel, within adequate reach of the steering wheel and the brake pedal without sliding across the hard bench seat and away from the wheel and pedal. I resigned myself to wearing the seatbelt it was equipped with and envisioned myself as Parnelli Jones or Junior Johnson strapping in before a race. But thankfully, the habit did take.

So where am I going with this, and how could it possibly relate to white lining? I am sure that my wife, who kindly reviews every article for me will ask the same question. I learned this behavior, this habit, not because it was the right thing to do or because someone else told me that I should do it; I learned it, ingrained it into myself, because it achieved results, the results I needed. It worked. When it comes to white lining, I am asking all of you to do the same.

In Ohio, our Revised Code requires white lining in many circumstances but allows some alternatives and exceptions. Yet it seems that we see too many entities with obligations under this part of the law failing to use this tool. I agree that some sites do not lend themselves to pre-marking or that in some cases, white lining would create more of a safety hazard than it would solve, on a roadway, for example. But overall, it “paints” a clearer picture of the excavators’ intentions. And if it allows a more efficient marking process, then the time saved can be used to correctly, accurately mark utilities on that job or another job, all of which promote safety to the industry.

Years ago, we were extending a roadway and were continually requesting locates yet not receiving the markings we knew we needed for safe excavation. The problem was that the intersection where the roadway was to begin “jogged” several hundred yards across another road with a different name and resumed on the other side. Both intersecting road names were included in our locate request and at the time, white lining was not a common practice. Once, after visiting the jobsite, I went by the part of the intersection where the road started to “jog,” 500 yards or so from our intended excavation. It was covered with an array of flags. Those responsible for marking the utilities had done their job, correctly to them, and we had as well. Nonetheless, we did not get the results we needed. Clearer communication would have helped, and white lining is a very effective way of doing that.

So, the message is that, whenever possible, to internalize the safety precaution, not looking at it as a necessary requirement or as a waste of time, is a more efficient way of getting the results needed for safe excavation. And if it allows you to think of yourself as Parnelli Jones or Kyle Busch, so much the better.