April marks the traditional kick-off of the home improvement and outdoor planting season. With the increase in construction activity during this period, April has also been designated as “National Safe Digging Month.”
Homeowners and professional contractors are reminded to call 8-1-1 at least three business days before undertaking home improvement or landscaping projects that require excavation. Contractors failing to call 8-1-1 prior to performing excavation work are in violation of Pennsylvania law.
National Safe Digging Month was established in 2008 to raise awareness about safe digging practices and to help prevent property damage, injuries, and utility outages. Nationwide, there are more than 20 million miles of underground pipes and cables.
According to the Common Ground Alliance, a national coalition committed to saving lives and preventing damage to underground infrastructure, more than 500,000 incidents resulting in damage to underground facilities are caused by excavators each year resulting in over $30 billion in damage. That estimate includes both the direct costs to repair the damage, as well as indirect costs such as property damage, medical bills, and businesses unable to operate.
In nearly a third of incidents that resulted in damage to underground facilities, the excavator did not contact 8-1-1 prior to digging.
Calling 8-1-1 at least three business days before starting a project that involves digging ensures underground utilities are properly marked, which reduces the risk of damage. There is no charge to homeowners for 8-1-1 requests.
Every digging project, no matter how small, requires a call to 8-1-1 when mechanized equipment will be used. Installing a mailbox, putting in a fence, building a deck, and even homeowner landscaping projects such as planting trees or shrubs are all examples of digging projects that warrant a call to 8-1-1 when the project will utilize mechanized equipment. Calling 8-1-1 is also highly encouraged when a project can be completed with hand digging.
When making the call to 8-1-1, callers are connected to their local one-call center. The one-call center then notifies the appropriate utility companies of the location of the planned excavation activity. Following receipt of the call, utility companies send out locators to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags or paint.
In addition, if residents see excavation being done with mechanical equipment and no paint markings or flags at the site, they can call 8-1-1 to report a possible “No One Call” situation. If a valid One Call ticket has not been issued, an Emergency One Call will be issued to notify all facility owners in the area of the excavation work.
“’Know what’s below’ is simple phrase that can make a significant difference,” Tim Angstadt, UGI Vice President of Operations, said. “Striking a single line can cause injury, repair costs, fines and outages that inconvenience communities. In fact, third-party excavation damage is the leading cause of natural gas pipeline damage involving death or serious injury. National Safe Digging Month provides us an opportunity to remind homeowners and contractors to call 8-1-1 before digging to prevent the risk of striking an underground utility line.”
Angstadt added that contractors and homeowners should also “look up and live” when working around electric and other above-ground facilities.
“Damage and potential injuries can also be avoided by being aware of overhead lines,” Angstadt said.
Visit www.ugi.com/811 or call811.com for more information about safe digging practices and excavation safety.
UGI Utilities has headquarters in Denver, Pennsylvania and serves more than 740,000 customers in 45 Pennsylvania counties and one county in Maryland. Customers interested in additional information visit the UGI website at www.ugi.com; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ugiutilities; Twitter at www.twitter.com/ugi_utilities