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The Dangers of Digging: Underground Utilities Part 1

Excavation is a requisite part of construction, but it is important to exercise immense caution when digging. There are numerous safety hazards associated with digging, from striking a gas line to puncturing a water main and more. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notes that excavation and trenching are “among the most hazardous construction operations.

The construction lawyers in Mobile, AL at Cotney Construction Law understand the multitude of safety concerns associated with digging and how to best avoid them. This article is the first part of a two-part series in which we will teach you about the underground utilities to be wary of when excavating for a construction project. Remember, it is imperative to call 811 to have your underground utilities mapped out before digging.

Gas Lines

Striking a gas line during an excavation can be deadly if you fail to follow the correct procedures. Gas lines are generally located 18-36 inches below the surface. You can usually recognize a leaking gas line by its unique smell reminiscent of rotten eggs. Gas is flammable and a single spark can lead to an active fire, so it is imperative to evacuate the affected area to somewhere a safe distance from the leak. Once you have fled to somewhere safe, you should call the utility company to alert a professional about the leak so it can be dealt with swiftly.

Sewer and Septic

Accidentally damaging a municipal sewer line or personal septic line can disrupt the flow of sewage and result in a foul smell. Broken sewer lines also proliferate the growth of mold and the oversaturation of soil, which can create depressions in the ground. This attracts rodents and insects, leading to an infestation of pests that will need to be removed from your property before construction can proceed. Damaged sewer lines can also have more severe consequences such as cracking in nearby foundation slab, foundation settlement, and even sinkholes.

Every six minutes, underground utilities are damaged due to non-compliance with safe digging practices as outlined by OSHA. It is important to contact 811 a few days ahead of a planned excavation to ensure that you are digging safely. In part two, we will discuss more underground utilities to watch out for when digging.

If you would like to speak with a construction lawyer in Mobile, AL, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.