National Safe Digging Month: The Critical First Step in Any Excavation Project

National Safe Digging Month: The Critical First Step in Any Excavation Project

April is National Safe Digging Month. That means that the national awareness campaign for everyone who breaks ground, from homeowners gardening in their yard, to excavators on a construction site, is in full display on news stations, 811 system and private utility locators’ websites, and social media throughout the United States. This month, and campaign, are set to reminds us of the essential, yet commonly overlooked step of locating both private and public utilities on a property before breaking ground. As Spring sets in and warm weather approaches, construction season begins, and that means that outdoor projects will be taking place everywhere.

It’s important, not just this month but every day, to recognize that underground utility lines are everywhere and the risk of damages to them are more dangerous and present than what meets the eye.

Call Before You Dig: The 811 Hotline

Before sinking shovels into the soil, boring a new utility line into the ground, or putting an excavator’s bucket on the ground on a job site, everyone from professional contractors to weekend gardeners must grasp the importance of calling 811. Not only is it the law to call 811 before you dig, this nationwide number also connects callers to local utility companies who can mark underground public utility lines free of charge.

The 811 service is a preventive measure against severe injuries, service disruptions, and costly repairs caused by hitting underground public gas, electrical, water, sewer, communication, or power lines, to name a few. A single call can prevent incidents like the one highlighted in the image below where a contractors excavation project turned hazardous upon striking a buried electrical line.

Excavator causes explosion after damaging high voltage electrical line

Beyond the Public Markings: Private Utility Locating

A clear understanding of the importance of calling 811 before you dig is needed, but without having that knowledge paired with the difference between private and public utility locating and the necessity of both, underground utility strikes will continue to ensue.

What is the Difference Between Public and Private Utilities?

Public utilities are installed by utility companies to provide service to an area. These lines are owned and maintained by the public utility company, regardless of whether they are located on public or private property. Public utilities typically include gas, power, and electric, sewer, water, and telecommunication.

However, public utility locators coordinated by 811 will only mark the utility lines that fall under public utility services. It's a lesser-known fact that approximately 65% of all underground utility lines located within the United States are on private property. These private lines are not covered by contacting 811 and will need to be located by a private utility locating company such as GPRS.

GPRS private utility locator mapping out underground lines on a job site

Private utilities are those which extend beyond service meters or public utilities, often on to privately owned property. Examples of private utilities are shown in the image below and can include electrical feeders and gas mains running through parking lots or to critical facilities such as hospitals or fire stations. They can also include lines running to and from substations, heavy industrial facilities, and refineries. These utilities would be owned and maintained by the property owner, placing them outside of the jurisdiction of public utility locating companies.

Difference between public and private utilities

The importance of locating both private and public utilities on a job site was discussed on WTOL 11, where experts from GPRS emphasized safe digging tactics to bypass hitting any underground lines, both on private and public property to keep ensure projects stay on time, on budget, and safe.

How GPRS can help

Using a private utility locator contractor is a great way to avoid hitting hidden utilities. Private utility locators such as GPRS can locate all types of underground utilities such as electric, gas, oil, steam, communications, water, sewer, irrigation, site lighting, and storm lines. GPRS Project Managers are SIM-certified, the nation’s leading training and methodology and are skilled at differentiating between buried materials utilizing multiple forms of technology, so you can dig with confidence.

As our name suggests, GPRS uses ground penetrating radar along with additional equipment such as electromagnetic (EM) utility locators to identify the locations of buried utilities. The area is then marked out on the surface with flags or paint (field markings), to provide you clear information about where the utilities are, so you to dig without the fear of hitting something. This data is then accurately collected and uploaded into our Utility GIS Mapping Platform, SiteMap® where all GPRS customers can easily access and view their underground utility data 24/7 from any computer or mobile device.

To learn more about how GPRS can keep you project on budget, on time, and most importantly safe. Schedule a service or request a quote below.

How Construction Safety Week and Safe Digging Month Go Hand-in-Hand

National Safe Digging Month aligns with Construction Safety Week 2024, by emphasizing the importance of conducting safe digging practices in the construction industry. These two initiatives work together to promote a culture of safety and awareness, recognizing the shared responsibility of preventing harm while building critical infrastructure both above and below ground.

Safe digging isn't just about following protocol; it's about protecting lives. By combining the broad coverage of 811 with the detailed attention of private utility locating services, we create a solid foundation for future developments that prioritizes safety above all else.

In honor of Construction Safety Week 2024, take a proactive step in ensuring the well-being of your construction crew and project. Sign up for a complimentary talk with a GPRS safety expert today for the week of May 6-10 and make a commitment to furthering safety in construction in your community. Together, we can plan, design, communicate, dig and build better.

Schedule a Presentation Today

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Dig Without Hitting Utilities?

No. All utilities can be vulnerable to damage without first verifying their location before breaking ground. Damages to any kind of underground utility lines while digging can lead to serious injuries, environmental issues and power outages. Failure to first contact 811 prior to breaking ground can result in fines and other penalties.

What is Construction Safety Week?

Construction Safety Week is an annual week-long, complimentary national education event. The construction industry, its clients, and business partners take this opportunity to recommit to sending every worker home safely each day.