Xcel Energy Tips of the Trade
Hand-digging, downed power line, and other safety practices
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 (NEW LAW)
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:



You’ve called 811, and all buried utility lines on your job site have been located and marked. Now your power-digging work can begin, right?

Not so fast. Before you can safely cross or work close to an underground utility line, you must first hand-dig to expose the line and verify its exact location and depth. Be knowledgeable about the hand-digging tolerance zone laws in each state.

Dig with care
Whenever you hand-dig near buried utility lines, take care to prevent damage:

  • Use a rounded or blunt-edged shovel. Sharp tools, like pickaxes, mattocks, pry bars or pointed spades, may gouge or puncture lines.
  • Start your digging off to the side of the marked utility line. Use a gentle, prying motion to break away soil as you approach the utility laterally.
  • Never pry against a utility line to remove soil, stab at the soil, or stomp on the shovel with both feet.

Tips for protecting yourself

  • Always wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Take care to prevent muscle strain
  • Don’t twist your torso to move the dirt
  • Move your feet to turn your entire body
  • Alternate shoveling between your left and right sides
  • Take breaks to prevent fatigue

Report ALL damages
Even a slight gouge, scrape, or dent to a utility conduit or its coating may cause a break or leak in the future. Protect all exposed utility lines, and check them regularly for damage. Before you backfill, check them again. Report any damage to Xcel Energy so crews can inspect the line and make the necessary repairs.

Downed power line
Always assume that an electric line is energized, even when disconnected from overhead structure or lying on the ground. Electric utility lines can become energized at any moment. Protect yourself and others by staying away.

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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