April is National Safe Digging Month, and it serves as a reminder to utility companies and contract locators about the importance of safe digging practices. It is critical for these organizations to call 811 before starting any digging project to ensure that they avoid hitting any underground utility lines.
By following the tips outlined in this article and taking precautions before digging, utility companies and contract locators can help prevent accidents and protect their communities from harm.
Why is National Safe Digging Month Important?
National Safe Digging Month is important because it raises awareness about taking precautions before digging. According to the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), there are over 20 million miles of underground utility lines in the United States. These lines include gas, electric, water, sewer, and telecommunications lines. If you accidentally hit one of these lines while digging, it can cause serious injury or even death and disrupt essential services for communities.
In addition to the safety risks, there are also financial risks associated with not following safe digging practices. If you damage an underground utility line, you may be held liable for the cost of repairs and any associated damages. This can be a costly mistake, especially for utilities working on large-scale projects.
By raising awareness about the importance of safe digging practices, National Safe Digging Month helps to prevent accidents and protect communities from financial and physical harm.
What are the Risks of Not Following Safe Digging Practices?
The risks of not following safe digging practices are significant. Some of the potential consequences include:
Injury or Death - Accidentally hitting an underground utility line while digging can lead to serious injuries or even fatalities. Gas lines are especially dangerous due to their highly explosive nature.
Service Disruption - Damaging an underground utility line can cause essential community services, such as water or electricity, to be disrupted. For instance, hitting a water line can result in a loss of water pressure or complete water service interruption for a neighborhood.
Property Damage - Damaging an underground utility line can also cause damage to surrounding property. For example, if you hit a gas line, it can result in an explosion that damages nearby homes or buildings.
Legal Liability - If you damage an underground utility line, you may be held liable for repair costs and any associated damages. This can be a costly mistake, especially for contractors working on large-scale projects.
Risk of Fines - In addition to legal liability, there is a risk of fines for damaging underground utility lines. These fines can be substantial and can affect your business's bottom line.
Tips for Avoiding Damage to Underground Utility Lines
To avoid the risks of not following safe digging practices, it is important to take precautions before you dig. Here are some tips for avoiding damage to underground utility lines:
Call 811 - Before you start digging, call 811 to have underground utility lines marked. This is a free service that is available in all 50 states. Once you call 811, a representative from your local utility company will come to your property and mark the location of any underground utility lines.
Wait - After you call 811, you will need to wait for the utility company to mark the location of underground utility lines. This usually takes a few days, but it can take longer, depending on the area you are in.
Respect the Marks - Once the utility company has marked the location of underground utility lines, it is important to respect the marks. Refrain from digging within the marked area; only remove the marks once you have finished your project.
Hand Dig - If you need to dig within the marked area, it is important to hand dig. This means using a shovel instead of heavy machinery. Hand digging allows you to work more slowly and carefully, which can help you avoid hitting underground utility lines.
Know What to Look For - Even if you have had underground utility lines marked, it is important to know what to look for while digging. If you see any signs of underground lines, such as pipes or wires, stop digging immediately and contact the utility company.
Check the Weather - It is important to check the weather before digging. Rain, snow, or ice can soften the ground and increase the risk of hitting underground utility lines.
Check the Soil Type - Different soil types can affect underground utility lines' depth and placement. It is important to know what type of soil you are working with and to adjust your digging depth accordingly.
Be Careful Around Trees - Trees can have extensive root systems that can damage underground utility lines. If digging near trees, be extra careful and hand dig if necessary.
Keep a Safe Distance - When working around underground utility lines, it is important to keep a safe distance. This means staying at least 18 inches away from the marked lines and not digging directly above them.
Educate Yourself - Finally, educating yourself about safe digging practices is important. Take advantage of available resources, such as the 811 hotline and the Common Ground Alliance website. Stay informed can help prevent accidents and protect yourself and your community.
National Safe Digging Month is an important time to raise awareness about the need for safe digging practices. Whether you are a utility company or a contract locator, it is critical to call 811 before you dig to ensure that you avoid hitting any underground utility lines.
Following the tips outlined in this article and taking precautions before you dig can help prevent accidents and protect your community from harm. Remember, safety always comes first!
In conclusion, if you are a municipality, utility company, or locator company, it is essential to prioritize safe digging practices to protect your community and underground infrastructure. At BOSS Solutions, we understand the importance of damage prevention and have developed BOSS811, a cloud-based One Call ticket management software for managing excavation requests.
BOSS811 is an affordable and flexible solution that helps streamline utility requests, increase productivity, reduce risks, and prevent damages. Public works departments and utility companies trust our software to deliver efficient and actionable insights for damage prevention. We invite you to contact us to learn more and schedule a demo of BOSS811. Let us help you protect your underground infrastructure and keep communities safe.