There are over twenty million miles of buried utilities beneath the earth’s surface that are vital to everyday living. Whether you’re installing a new mailbox or excavating to install base support for an upcoming construction project, you should call 811 before picking up the shovel or starting the engine on a bulldozer.
811 is the federally designated contact for homeowners and professionals who want to avoid damaging underground utilities when they dig. In this guide, the OSHA defense attorneys at Cotney Construction Law will explain the importance of calling 811 and how it can save you from an expensive repair bill or a neighborhood service outage.
Making the Call
811 is a free service with call centers in every state to ensure quick, reliable communication with one of 811’s knowledgeable representatives. Contact 811 a few days before you plan to dig so there is ample time to safely assess your site. After you explain your project to an 811 representative, they will notify the appropriate utility companies to mark any buried utilities with colored flags or paint. The color associations are listed below:
- Red: Electric
- Yellow: Gas, Petroleum, Oil…etc.
- Orange: Communications (cable, phone…etc.)
- Blue: Water
- Green: Sewer
- Purple: Irrigation, Reclaimed Water
- Pink: Temporary Survey Marker
- White: Proposed Excavation
When to Start Digging
Utility services will usually arrive within a few days to locate and mark underground utilities. We advise that you have someone to meet the surveyors so that any questions regarding the location or depth of utilities are answered directly. Guesswork during excavation can lead to damaged utilities, expensive repairs, and disgruntled neighbors. Guidelines vary from state to state, so make sure you are versed in the state laws for your area.
Once you have called 811 and utility services have marked the locations of any underground utilities, you can begin to dig. Dig around the marks, not directly on top of them, and exercise caution so you don’t make any mistakes. One overzealous thrust can result in a cracked pipe and an unwanted repair bill. Keep in mind that erosion or root structure growth can shift the locations of utility lines, so it is important to call 811 again if you have any concerns.
In addition to 811’s safety services, they also provide promotional materials to spread awareness about safe digging, maintain a calendar of events for 811-related community involvement, and host “811 Kids” to teach future excavators about the dangers of digging.
Safe excavation is an important component of upholding OSHA regulations. In fact, OSHA considers excavation and trenching two of the most hazardous operations in construction.
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.