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Always Call 811 Before Digging, Excavating or Trenching

Colors send a message, and in this case they are important if you are putting anything bigger than garden trowel into the ground. Do you know what each color means? What about a white line? Does that apply to you and when should you do it?

Utility Flag Markers in Grass

Trenching and excavation work poses many hazards such as cave-ins, equipment struck-by incidents, potential falls, and striking underground utilities. Hazards posed by striking buried underground utilities include property damage, injury, electrocutions and even explosions.

OSHA Standard 1926.651(b)(1) states that the estimated location of utility installations, such as sewer, telephone, fuel, electric, water lines, or any other underground installations that reasonably may be expected to be encountered during excavation work, shall be determined prior to opening an excavation.
Utility Marks on Sidewalk

In order to prevent these potential hazards it is important to follow all applicable excavation and trenching requirements. In addition to OSHA rules, workers should be aware that there are many specific state, municipal, or local rules for Call Before You Dig where the work is being done.

OSHA Standard 1926.651(b)(2) says that utility companies or owners shall be contacted within established or customary local response times, advised of the proposed work, and asked to establish the location of the utility underground installations prior to the start of actual excavation.

To learn more about Calling 811 including 811 in your state, visit the Call 811 website. Call 811 has an interactive state map to make it easy for you to find information about 811 requirements in your area. They have information for homeowners, contractors, farmers and ranchers.

  • Before trenching or excavation work takes place, workers must estimate the location of any buried underground utilities by contacting the appropriate service.
  • Each state has specific guidelines for call before you dig.
  • Call 811 from anywhere in the country a few days prior to working on excavations, trenching or digging and the call will automatically be routed to the local one call center.
Color Code Marking Guide

Prior to excavation and before calling 811, some states require contractors to "white line" the area proposed for excavation. White Line the area by painting white arrows, dashes, dots or lines in the area the crew will be digging before the locate service arrives.

White Lines on Ground
Example of how to White Line
  • Always wait the specific time required by the locate service.
  • Always respect the markings and flags placed by the locating service.
  • Probe, hand dig, and/or pot hole using shovels when approaching the painted/flagged areas.
Always respect the markings and flags placed by the locating service.
Always respect the markings and flags placed by the locating service.

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