Top 3 mistakes people make before starting a project that requires digging

Top 3 mistakes people make before starting a project that requires digging

If you are a homeowner planting a tree, a contractor installing a fence, or a utility worker repairing underground pipes, not contacting 811 can have serious consequences.

It is important to Know what’s below.

Contacting 811 before digging is essential for safety and to avoid damaging underground utility lines. Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of not calling before digging, which can result in serious injuries, property damage, and costly repairs.

Here are the top three mistakes people make before digging:

Assuming there are no utility lines in the area
One of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming that there are no underground utility lines in the area they plan to dig. This can be a costly mistake, as there are often hidden utility lines such as gas, electric, water, and sewer lines that may not be visible on the surface. Hitting one of these lines can lead to dangerous accidents, service disruptions, and expensive repairs.
Not giving enough notice
Another common mistake is not giving enough notice before digging. Many people assume that they only need to contact 811 a day or two before they plan to start digging.
Be sure to provide a 2 – 10 full working day notice, not counting the day of notification, prior to the proposed start of excavation.
Not following/respecting the markings
After you've contacted 811, utility companies will come out and mark the location of their lines with paint or flags. One of the biggest mistakes people make is not following these markings or disregarding them entirely. It's essential to understand what each color means and to avoid digging within the marked areas. Ignoring these markings can result in damage to underground utilities and, in turn, dangerous accidents and service disruptions. Contacting 811 before digging is critical to decrease the chances of damaging underground utilities and ensuring public safety.

Remember to assume that there are utility lines in the area, give enough notice, and follow the markings.

The top 5 damage causes make up 70 percent of total damages reported


The top 5 damage causes make up

70% of total damages reported


In September 2021, Common Ground Alliance (CGA) published its 2020 Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report, which analyzed all 2020 damage and near-miss data submitted voluntarily by facility operators, utility locating companies, one call centers, contractors, regulators, and others from the U.S. and Canada. 

The top 5 damage root causes:

1. No notification made to one call center/811

Failure to notify the one-call center (811) is the single largest individual root cause, contributing to 32% of damages.

2. Excavator dug prior to verifying marks by test-hole (pothole)

Excavator dug prior to verifying marks by test-hole (pothole) combined with Failure to maintain clearance make up the most consistent causes of damage due to excavator error in the field.

3. Facility marked inaccurately due to abandoned facility

There may be damages related to mapping, tracer wire, and abandoned facility hidden in the “Locator Error” category according to the DIRT report.

Therefore, such errors should not always be interpreted to conclude that the technician is the responsible party. Inaccurate maps, broken tracer locate wire, abandoned facility, etc. could lead to an inaccurate locate even if the locator followed all proper procedures.

4. Facility not marked due to excavator error

There may be instances where an excavator may have contacted the notification center, but may not have provided sufficient information, or the excavator did not provide sufficient notification time according to requirements and guidelines.

Ex: Excavator was excavating outside of the located area

5. Excavator failed to maintain clearance after verifying marks

Excavator failed to maintain clearance (defined by applicable guidelines, law, and facility owners) from underground facilities when using power/ mechanical equipment.

Damages continue to occur, and the major root cause groupings are still roughly equal to one another. The data reinforces that we still have important work to do to drive down the estimated $30 billion dollars in societal costs that result from damages to critical underground infrastructure in communities across the country. Implementing more effective education and training across stakeholder groups about the importance of adhering to damage prevention practices can potentially result in a significant reduction in damages, which means companies can reduce their environmental footprint as well as negative impacts on communities.