Before starting an excavation project on your property, you must be aware that you are not allowed to dig however you like. There are legal regulations that require preparations; they include not only the necessary environment and tools for digging/ excavating, but also the measures to be taken in order to dig safely, without damaging underground utilities.
Types of underground utilities and how they are marked
Some people associate the words “underground utilities” with phone and power lines, but in reality there is an entire network of buried lines that include water, gas and oil pipes, different types of cables, wires etc. Damaging them can cause severe consequences, from loss of vital services and isolating an entire community, to environmental damage and human injury.
There is a penalty system in each state, for failing to comply to digging regulations, because preventing damage to underground wire location utilities is everyone`s responsibility. Locating and marking these utilities before starting an excavation project is essential and homeowners must call for professional locators anytime they plan to dig holes deeper than 12 inches.
Typically, there are some uniform marking symbols, as well as a national coloring coding system for different types of buried utilities.
- Electric lines and cables – red
- Gas, oil and other flammable materials – yellow
- Sewage and drain lines – green
- Drinking water – blue
- Irrigation, reclaimed water – purple
- Telecommunications – orange
- Unidentified or temporary facilities – pink
Other things to learn before starting an excavation project
Luckily, you do not have to worry about finding utility locators. There is a number that you can dial from each state that will put you in contact with an operator from a call center. After providing some information about your digging project and your location, you will be contacted by utility locators sent by companies that have buried utilities on your area. They will mark these utilities for you and once their work is over, you can start digging/ excavating safely.
Call 811 at least two business days before you begin your digging project.
If you damage a buried utility, you must not ignore it or attempt to repair it yourself, as it may be very dangerous for people’s life, health, properties as well as for the environment. You must immediately stop all excavation in the area, evacuate everyone from the immediate vicinity and call 911.
There are penalty systems, in each state, for ignoring making the right preparations for digging safely, depending on the severity of the mistakes and the damage. Penalties include fines, attending educational programs, as well as enforcement actions.
Depending on the size of your excavating project, here are other things to consider in order to ensure safety:
- Placement of excavated soil and materials
- Ground disturbances
- Hazardous substances or water in the soil
- Hazardous atmosphere on the excavating site
- Influence on structures situated near the excavation site
- Earth or rock falls, as well as other potential falling objects
- Safe access on the excavating site
- Weather and natural hazards
- Geotechnical site assessment
- Traffic management plan
- Providing suitable lighting on the excavation site