Safe underground digging for electrical applications

Underground digging, drilling or landscaping projects cannot take place until the utilities are properly located and avoided. It is dangerous, professionally embarrassing, and potentially very costly to disturb or damage any of these services.


Every year, underground utilities become more widespread. Natural gas, electric transmission and distribution, cable television, private data services, municipal water, telephone and other utilities are placing services underground. That’s why any underground digging, drilling or landscaping projects cannot take place until the utilities are properly located and avoided. It is dangerous, professionally embarrassing, and potentially very costly to disturb or damage any of these services.Before you begin digging, drilling or landscaping, make the appropriate phone call or internet communication. This is a requirement. Photo by Kuan Fang on Unsplash

Just a phone call

Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid trouble. Anywhere in the U.S., a phone call to 811 or a visit to the 811 website gives you a one-stop opportunity to have all utilities located and marked before you put a shovel, drill or backhoe into the ground. In Canada, all provinces have a one-call underground utility location service as well. With today’s one-call services, the number of dig-in accidents is diminishing, despite more utilities going underground every year.

Both owners and contractors are responsible for safe digging practices. If as an owner you hire a contractor, it is also wise to assure the proper procedures are followed. Most one-call services will locate and mark all utilities within 72 hours and will notify you when the process is complete. Your action will demonstrate your good faith effort to avoid conflicts. Typically, the location and marking service is valid for about two weeks, but it may vary from state to state, province to province. If your project comes close to any indicated service, communicate with that utility to look for resolution. Don’t take a chance – make the call before you start.

More info

811 in Your State Details
DigSafe Canada

This article originally appeared in the Gas Technology Summer 2017 issue.

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