One of GPRS’ favorite construction industry initiatives is National Safe Digging Month.
Celebrated each April, NDSM boosts awareness and activities that promote safe digging practices.
Recognized by the United States Congress and most state governors, this month of safe digging awareness and damage prevention is timed in conjunction with the spring season, in which many digging projects begin.
Every state has some form of safe digging law in effect designed to ensure that any groundbreaking activities will not disrupt existing utilities or structures. There is also a mandatory time frame involved with these laws, most often requiring that the party intending to dig – whether a large construction firm, a singular contractor, or even a homeowner digging in their own backyard – contacts the local municipality within a certain number of business days.
In the case of trenching, the federal government recently took action to ensure the safety of construction workers. The U.S. Department of Labor and The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) implemented “Enhanced Enforcement” measures in the wake of what they referred to as an “alarming rise in trench-related fatalities” in 2022.
Why Does Safe Digging Matter, and What are the Consequences if Laws are not Followed?
The consequences of not following safe digging laws, codes, and best practices can be dire both for the person or entity performing the digging, and the surrounding community.
According to research conducted for GPRS in 2021 by Finch, the average cost of one utility strike is approximately $56,000. Then there could be additional cost in the form of fines – upwards of $10,000 per incident - levied on the person or entity that was digging, should it be determined that they were not following their state’s safe digging laws.
Additionally, a severed gas or electrical line could result in catastrophic damage that endangers both those performing the groundbreaking activities and those in the surrounding community. A damaged water or communications line could disrupt services to thousands.
Safe digging practices ensure your projects stay on time, on budget, and - most importantly - safe.
811 One Call public utility locates are available in every state to provide both homeowners and professional excavators with the locations of any public utilities in the area in which they are planning on digging. In the case of larger projects, the contractor – not the entity who hired them – is required to contact these services prior to breaking ground.
But 811 only locates public utilities. You also need to contact a private utility locator such as GPRS to truly ensure a site is clear of obstructions prior to beginning groundbreaking activities.
Should something go wrong during excavation, the company or individual involved is required by law to immediately notify the authorities. Many states maintain a notification system that alerts residents when their home is within a certain radius of a large digging project. This system will also be used in emergency situations to alert homeowners when a utility line is struck or other subsurface damage occurs.
Some states even employ damage prevention professionals, staffed to answer questions before and during a digging project.
How Do I Ensure a Safe Dig?
There are several ways, legally required and/or generally recommended, to prevent mishaps while digging underground:
The need for safe digging is ever-present, and when you apply the techniques and plans mentioned above, you can ensure a successful dig which prioritizes and protects the surrounding land and lives. If you’re approaching a major digging project, contact GPRS for more details on subsurface scanning, cloud-based document viewing and retention, and more.