You’ve called 811, you’ve waited your state’s required time, and all facility owners have located and placed flags or paint to mark their buried utility lines. Now you can use your digging equipment to begin excavating, right?
- Conduct a pre-excavation site survey to make sure all facility owners have located and marked their utilities. Account for all potential buried facilities: Gas, electric, telephone, CATV, water, sewer. Ensure all are identified. Look for signs of un-located facilities, such as pedestals, pole risers, and patches in the pavement that have not been marked.
- Before you can safely cross or work close to an underground utility line, you must understand what you see; many buried facilities are plastic and that means you can easily damage them, even with a shovel.
- First, use only hand tools, like shovels or other non-intrusive methods, to expose the line and verify its exact location and depth. Never use mechanized digging equipment until you’ve done this.
- Then, and only then, can you begin excavating with mechanized equipment.
- A spotter should be used to guide the operator while using the equipment.
Before you begin digging, be sure you understand what is buried below. The completed locate will indicate the size, type, and material of a facility on the marked line. For example, a gas distribution line is typically identified in Yellow while an electric line is typically identified in Red. Abandoned facilities can also be found above or next to the marked facility.
It is important to know the size, type, and material of a facility to ensure you find exactly what you are looking for when digging. When using hand tools to dig near buried utility lines, take great care to prevent damages:
- Use a rounded or blunt-edged shovel. Sharper tools, such as pickaxes, mattocks, pry bars, or pointed spades, may gouge or puncture lines.
- Use a fiberglass shovel when digging around electric cables.
- Never assume you know the depth of a buried facility.
- Begin digging starting at 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.
- When possible, expose to the depth of your excavation beneath the facility to ensure that you can safely cross beneath the located facilities.
Always wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and use recommended digging methods to prevent muscle strain and fatigue.
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 damages to Xcel Energy so crews can inspect the line and make the necessary repairs.
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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