This April marks the 11th annual National Safe Digging Month. It’s meant to give everyone the opportunity to reflect on the best practices for safe digging and ensure that all digging activity is carried out with the appropriate caution and planning. April has been chosen as the month to acknowledge safe digging standards and practices. With warmer weather and an increase in outdoor work projects, this month represents the beginning of the digging season.
Any project that requires digging and excavation carries a risk of hitting underground utility lines. It’s important to take the proper precautions before breaking ground, whether your project is large or small.
What’s the Risk?
Reports indicate that an underground utility line is damaged every nine minutes in the U.S. Accidentally hitting just a single line is extremely dangerous and damages can be significant. The risks include:
- Serious injury or death,
- Property damages,
- Utility damages,
- Service interruptions,
- Costly repairs,
- Environmental damages, and
- Remediation expenses.
Planning an outdoor project? Don’t forget to CALL BEFORE YOU DIG.
Damage to buried utility lines often occurs because the person leading the project was unaware of the risk. For example, this includes homeowners undertaking common do-it-yourself projects – such as installing a mailbox, planting a tree or building a deck. Any amount of digging–even at a shallow depth and on familiar land–puts them at risk of interfering with underground utility lines.
Surveys have found that 36% of homeowners planning a DIY project won’t take the most basic safety precautions in regards to buried utilities. In fact, shovels and other hand tools are responsible for 22% of all pipeline damage.
The truth is that utility lines are everywhere. Electrical, natural gas, telephone, internet, fiber optic, water, and sewer lines make a complex network below the surface. And over time, root growth, soil erosion, seismic activity, and groundwater movement can cause the location of utility lines to shift.
How Can You Dig Safely?
These are the steps that can you take to ensure your digging and excavation projects are carried out safely:
- Notify – Call 8-1-1 or make a request online at least 3 days before you break ground. Notifying one-call utility locating services is required for everyone – from homeowners putting up a fence to professional contractors overseeing a large-scale building project.
- Inquire – Request private utility locating services to safely indicate utility lines on your property.
- Wait – Wait 2-3 days for a response to your request. Affected agencies will send a locator to mark any underground utilities.
- Confirm – Check that all affected utilities have responded by comparing the markers to the list of utilities provided by the 8-1-1 center.
- Respect – Leave a safety margin (18-24 in. on all sides) around the utility markers. They are your guide for the project.
- Dig Carefully – If you can’t avoid digging near the markers, consider moving your project. Once private and public utilities have been located, you can proceed with excavation around the marked lines with confidence that your dig will be a safe one.
Call Before You Dig
Remember, for most projects, there are two calls that you should make. This is because property lines delineate where public utility responsibility ends and where the private property owner’s (commercial and residential) responsibility begins.
811 Public Utility Location Services
811 is the national call-before-you-dig phone number; it’s an easy and free service. Professional workers, contractors, and homeowners are all encouraged and required to contact 811 before starting any digging work. Each state maintains its own 811 call center; when you call, you’ll be connected with a local 811 representative for your area. You can also go to your state’s 811 website.
When you notify 811 by phone or online, agents will respond to your request. They are responsible for contacting utility companies that might have lines and facilities in your digging location. Provide at least a few days to a week prior notice before breaking ground to guarantee that professional locators have enough time to do their job. Professional locators will be dispatched within a few days to mark buried utilities at the site with paint or flags so that you can avoid hitting them during your project.
Private Utility Location Services
One-call location crews only locate PUBLIC utility lines. PRIVATE utility locators must mark those on private, residential, commercial, and municipal properties. This is important because private commercial, residential, and municipal property owners are responsible for any damage caused to any utilities within their property.
Can You Dig It?
Call 811 and your local PRIVATE UTILITY LOCATOR before you dig! Contact SoftDig.
As one of the United State’s oldest full-service Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) firms, SoftDig has provided professional utility locating services throughout the country for over 50 years.
Since its introduction in 1959, our trademarked SoftDig® system has transformed underground utility locating and is used across North America, Australia, and Europe. For more information about how we can help ensure that your next digging project is secure, request a project estimate today.