Trenching and excavation work poses many hazards such as cave-ins, equipment struck-by incidents, potential falls, and striking underground utilities. Hazards posed by striking buried underground utilities include property damage, injury, electrocutions, and even explosions.

After investigating hundreds of utility hits and spending substantial time on root cause analysis, we know the real damage that can be caused by not calling 811 before you dig. Making assumptions will get you in trouble every time.

The biggest assumption that we saw time and time again was assuming that all lines in the area are buried at least 18″ deep. Reason for the assumption? Because, in most states, all lines are ‘supposed to’ be buried at least 18″ deep. After dozens of line hits all over the country, are all lines buried at least 18″ deep because they are supposed to be? NO. Lesson learned? Any dig, any depth, always requires a call to 811 a few days before the project.

In order to prevent these potential hazards, it is important to follow all applicable excavation and trenching requirements. In addition to OSHA rules, workers should be aware that there are many specific state, municipal, or local rules for Call Before You Dig where the work is being done.

OSHA Standard 1926.651(b)(1) states that the estimated location of utility installations, such as sewer, telephone, fuel, electric, water lines, or any other underground installations that reasonably may be expected to be encountered during excavation work, shall be determined prior to opening an excavation.

To learn more about Calling 811 including 811 in your state, visit the Call 811 website. Call 811 has an interactive state map to make it easy for you to find information about 811 requirements in your area. They have information for homeowners, contractors, farmers and ranchers.

  • Before trenching or excavation work takes place, workers must estimate the location of any buried underground utilities by contacting the appropriate service
  • Each state has specific guidelines for call before you dig
  • Call 811 from anywhere in the country a few days prior to working on excavations, trenching or digging and the call will automatically be routed to the local one call center

OSHA Standard 1926.651(b)(2) says that utility companies or owners shall be contacted within established or customary local response times, advised of the proposed work, and asked to establish the location of the utility underground installations prior to the start of actual excavation.

  • Always wait the specific time required by the locate service
  • Always respect the markings and flags placed by the locating service
  • Probe, hand dig, and/or pothole using shovels when approaching the painted/flagged areas

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that you and your teammates can be protected from unforeseen dig hazards.

Until next time….Work Safe and Be Safe!

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