Does that construction site look like a rainbow of flags? Is there a row of colored markings in your neighbor’s yard? Those flags aren’t decoration. They are utility indicators used by a free service provided by the Common Ground Alliance811 initiative.
August 11 is National Safe Digging Day. Calling 811 – the national call-before-you-dig number – gives notification of planned digging projects – both commercial and residential. Underground utility lines are identified and marked prior to moving dirt. Calling 811 does not just prevent disrupted services; it also protects residents and workers.
OSHA Training recommends that the following steps are taken prior to digging:
Call 811. Though lead time varies by state, calling 48 hours prior to digging is usually enough time to mark utility lines. The American Public Works Association created a universal flag color system to distinguish between utility markings. Prior to beginning your project, be sure to verify that all lines have been marked.
Respect tolerance zones. A tolerance zone is an area on each side of the utility line where underground utilities may be present. Tolerance zones vary by state but are typically between 18-36 inches on each side of the line. When working in this zone, use extreme caution. Consider hand digging in these areas to prevent damaging a line.
Support lines. When necessary, provide support to the utility lines so they do not collapse while work is performed.
Report suspected damage. Even if the damage to a line appears minor, always report it immediately to your supervisor.
Backfill with caution. Do not backfill directly onto the line. The added weight of soil could damage the utility line.
Calling 811 isn’t just for anticipated projects by construction companies. 811 is a free service provided by each state to keep homeowners and contractors safe when disturbing the ground, spanning landscaping projects to commercial builds.