It’s the perfect weather to get outside and spend time in the yard. You may be looking around and seeing there are a few improvements you’d like to make. Does your project involve digging? Any digging in your yard, even small gardening projects, risk impacting underground lines. In order to safely make these improvements, understanding safe digging practices is essential.
Before getting into how to stay safe, here are a few myths we need to dispel about safe digging.
Calling 811 (the nationwide number that should be called before any digging is started) once means you never have to call again.
Not digging deep so, no need to call 811.
Calling 811 costs money.
If a pipeline is hit, it’s ok, there’s nothing to worry about.
All of these myths can have consequences, that could’ve been avoided by calling 811. It takes 4-5 minutes; much shorter than the time it will take to repair a hit pipeline, 4-5 days.
Consideration should be given in this order:
Allow time for required markings
Adhere to the marks
8-1-1 is a free coordination service that will mark the location of utilities up to the point where the lines make their initial connection to the home or service meter. They will not arrange location services for any service wires or pipes that are not considered public utilities or which have been installed by private companies.
The process of calling 811 is simple. Dialing 811 connects you to your area’s service center. The representative at 811 will contact your local utility company. Within a few days, a utility worker employed with your local utility company will be dispatched to your home. Once there, they’ll mark your underground utility lines with spray paint or set flags. No digging should be done until the markings are made.
The spray paint and flag colors mean something:
Orange – Communication, alarm or signal lines, cables, or conduit
Blue – Water
Purple – Reclaimed water, irrigation, and slurry lines
Green – Sewers and drain lines
Yellow – Gas, oil, steam, petroleum, or gaseous materials
White – Proposed excavation
Pink – Temporary survey markings
Red – Electric power lines, cables, conduit, and lighting cables
Safety Tips for Digging
If you installed underground wires or pipes yourself, check your notes to verify their location.
Make sure you have the appropriate equipment for digging.
Keep your trenches or holes at least 18 inches away from 8-1-1 markings.
Dig slowly. Irrigation lines and landscape lighting conduits and cables are not identified by 8-1-1 location services.
If you are hiring a contractor to dig, make sure they have the proper insurance. It’s even better if they are bonded. Bonding protects you if they fail to complete a job.
Each state has its own regulations for digging. No matter what, all projects that involve digging more than a foot deep, require a call to 811. Even when digging only a few inches, the risk of striking an underground utility line exists.
About Ryan Ruffcorn
Ryan grew up in Keokuk, graduated from Keokuk Senior High, and started his agency in Keokuk from scratch in 2003 after having worked for one of the largest international accounting firms, KPMG, LLP.
Ryan is hardworking; his loyal and trustworthy character is exemplified by the way he does business. He thoroughly enjoys helping clients through the insurance buying process to secure coverage for their most valuable assets.