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Play it safe: Follow this “SAFE 8” directional-drilling checklist
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August 2020: Everyone’s resources have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. You can help prevent locate delays by pre-marking your proposed dig area in white and notifying 811 of your planned excavation with as much lead time as is possible in your state.
To learn more about Xcel Energy’s response to COVID-19, click here.
Review these tips with coworkers at your tailgate or toolbox meetings before work begins to help avoid potential hazards when working near overhead power lines, and underground power or natural gas lines.
Horizontal directional drilling (HDD) is like threading a large needle through a maze of existing underground utilities—while blindfolded! Mistakes can be costly, causing injury or even death to you, your crew or the public, and you can be held liable for outages that disrupt critical community services.

As with any excavation, it’s essential to notify 811 to have underground utility lines located and marked before you dig, but you’ve got to take it a step further when you are using HDD:
Inform 811 that you’ll be using HDD.
Pre-mark your proposed route with white paint, stakes and/or flags to help locators identify all the utility lines in your dig area.
Then follow these “SAFE 8” drilling practices to assure your success.
1. Verify that all facilities have been marked, and walk the planned drill path, looking for gas meters, manhole covers and other indications of underground utilities that haven’t been marked. Maintain all locate documentation at the site.
2. When working within 10 feet of switch cabinets and terminal poles, expose all drill exits before boring begins.
3. Pothole all facilities at the point where your bore path will cross them. Be sure to pothole to the full depth of your bore path.
4. Look into the potholes and watch the bore head and back reamer cross all facilities.
5. Maintain a 3-foot clearance when crossing below an exposed utility line.
6. Maintain a 2-foot clearance when crossing above an exposed utility line.
7. Maintain a 3-foot separation when paralleling underground utility lines.
8. Never stack new facilities above or below existing underground utility lines.
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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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 legal 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
In case of emergency, call 9-1-1 and Xcel Energy:
Electric Emergencies: 800.895.1999
Natural Gas Emergencies: 800.895.2999
Colorado only: Gas Transmission Pipeline Emergencies: 800.698.7811
For more information on contractor safety, visit
Xcel Energy is a founding member of the Gold Shovel Standard, which is a first-of-its-kind, two-part excavation safety program. The program both certifies an excavator’s policies and procedures against the Gold Shovel Standard, and publishes a score or rating, known as an EICO™ score, which is an ongoing measure of an excavator’s excavation-safety worthiness. It is a novel and ambitious program on a North American scale to dramatically reduce damages from excavation to buried asset networks. To find out more about the Gold Shovel Standard, please visit
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