Xcel Energy Tips of the Trade
Recognizing and responding to natural gas leaks
811 Know what's below. Call before you dig.

To reach your state’s underground utility service/one-call center,
call 811 or visit their
online site by clicking on your state’s name below

The required “business day” wait time for each state is as follows (excludes weekends and holidays):

Colorado: 3 days
Michigan: 3 days
Minnesota: 2 days
New Mexico: 2 days
North Dakota: 3 days
South Dakota: 2 days
Texas: 2 days
Wisconsin: 3 days
Wyoming: 2 days

In case of emergency,
call 9-1-1 and Xcel Energy:

• Electric Emergencies:
• Natural Gas
• Colorado only:
  Gas Transmission
  Pipeline Emergencies:



Review these tips with coworkers at your tailgate or tool box
meetings before work begins to help avoid potential hazards when
working near overhead and underground power lines.

Recognizing gas leaks

If you’re like most people, you’ve learned to rely on your sense of smell to detect a natural gas leak. In and around your home, that distinctive, sulfur-like odor is in fact a sure sign that natural gas is leaking from an appliance burner or pipe. But it’s not the only sign, especially on the job site. And in some cases, natural gas leaks don’t smell at all.

Xcel Energy adds the odorant Mercaptan to natural gas. This odor, which is similar to sulfur or rotten eggs, helps most people smell a leak. But in some cases the odor of natural gas can be masked by other smells, or the gas can be stripped of its odor. This is known as “odor fade.”

So be sure to rely on your eyes and ears (not just your nose) to detect the warning signs of a gas leak. Be alert for a hissing or roaring sound, dirt spraying or blowing into the air, continual bubbling in water, and grass or plants that are dead or dying for no apparent reason.

If equipment contacts a gas line or you suspect a leak

Protect yourself, your coworkers, and the public by taking the following steps:

  Excavators hand digging
  1. Warn others and leave the area quickly.
  2. Do not use matches, cell phones, radios or lighters, as even a tiny spark could ignite the gas.
  3. Do not operate any gas pipeline valves or stop the flow of gas.
  4. Leave the excavation open.
  5. When you have reached a safe distance, call 911, then call Xcel Energy at 800.895.2999 (or the local natural gas utility) to report the gas emergency. Excavators are required by law to call 911 in the event of escaping gas.
  6. Stay away from the area until safety officials say it is safe to return.
  7. Report the incident to your supervisor.

There’s no such thing as minor damage

Even a slight gouge, scrape, or dent to a pipeline, its coating, or an attached wire, may cause a break or leak in the future. Report ALL gas line contacts to Xcel Energy at 800.895.2999, so crews can inspect the line and make the necessary repairs.

Would you like to know more?

Additional overhead and digging guidelines, emergency procedures, case studies, instructional videos and training tools can all be found at no charge to you on Xcel Energy’s e-SMARTworkers website.

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