Dig Safely with These Tips
Safety is the number one priority for the natural gas utility industry. Every April, the industry recognizes National Safe Digging Month, an important observance that focuses on promoting safe digging. April is a great time for this because spring is in full swing, and as families begin to see less frost and more flowers, outdoor projects begin to ramp up. But before going outside to break ground, here are a few tips to make sure you or your contractor are digging safely.
The first step for digging safely is calling 811, the national call-before-you-dig phone number. You can request that the approximate location of buried utilities be marked with paint or flags so that you don’t accidentally dig into an underground utility line. Either call 811 or go to your state’s 811 center’s website a few business days before digging to allow your utility company time to respond to your request.
Now that you’ve called 811 and your utility lines have been marked, it’s time to start working. When digging, always dig carefully around the marks, not on them. Utility lines can be buried at a shallow depth, sometimes as shallow as six inches, and a shovel in the wrong place can be potentially dangerous and/or have costly consequences.
Also, remember that erosion or root structure growth can shift the locations of your utility lines. This means that if you didn’t get to finish your digging project from last summer, you should call 811 and have the lines marked again to be as safe as possible. In fact, it’s best practice to call 811 every time you’re planning a digging job to help ensure you’re digging safely.
While National Safe Digging Month is officially in April, practicing safe digging is a year-round effort. Each year, damages to underground utilities cost the U.S. an estimated $30 billion. We all play a part and have a shared responsibility to help reduce damage to vital infrastructure by committing to safe digging practices and raising awareness of 811 services.