Furthermore, National Codes specify the depth to which these lines must be buried below ground. Some low-voltage subterranean lines may be as shallow as 18 inches, whereas the majority of higher-voltage circuits will be at least 24 inches deep.
Can I go as far as I can before dialing 811?
This figure comes from the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), and if it sounds disturbingly high to you, it’s because many people are unaware that they must call 811 before digging.
While the ground may not have thawed where you are, April is National Safe Digging Month, and it’s a good reminder to know what you need to do before breaking ground on this year’s projects.
According to data collated by CGA from various industry associations, there are more than 100 billion feet of subsurface utilities in the United States, so you can’t assume your customer’s property is free of them.
There is no limit to how deep a person can go before calling 811. CGA advises that any time you put a shovel in the ground, whether it’s to plant little shrubs or build a fence, you should contact because many utilities are buried just a few inches below the surface.
Even if an area has been designated previously, erosion and root system growth might change the depth or location of buried wires, so call each time you start a job.
Calling 811 is also not an optional chore, as every state has a different statute that requires people to contact before digging. While the amount of time you have to call 811 before digging differs by state, you can find your state’s standards here.
It is a frequent misperception that dialing 811 costs money; nevertheless, dialing 811 is completely free. Utility companies cover the cost to protect you, your staff, and your customers. When you don’t call, hit a utility line, and are held liable for the damage, the true expenses effect your business.
Some utility companies charge not just for the expense of dispatching a staff to repair or replace the damaged property, but also for the loss of service caused by the outage.
In recent years, some states have enacted penalties and fines to aid in the enforcement of the law. Mississippi passed a law in 2016 requiring first-time offenders to complete a compliance training course.
Second-time offenders within a five-year period must complete a training course or face a fine of up to $500 per offense. Malicious activities with the aim to destroy subsurface lines result in a training course and fines of up to $5,000 per event for third-time crimes in a five-year period.
Here’s how the 811 system works and what to expect:
- Two to three days before digging, call 811 or submit an online request to your local one-call center.
- The affected utility companies will be notified by the one-call center. Wait two to three days for the utility operators to react to your request (this varies by state). For each request, an average of seven to eight operators are notified.
- Verify that all of the operators who are affected have responded to your request. The process for confirmation varies by state.
- Dig around the designated locations with care. The majority of state rules prevent machines from being used within 18 to 24 inches of a utility that has been marked. Hand dig or use vacuum excavation if you need to dig closer.
Keep in mind that depending on the state, the locate ticket is only good for a set amount of time, and if you want to continue, you’ll need to call 811 for a re-mark.
Stop working immediately if one of your employees accidentally hits a pipeline. The processes that follow differ depending on the type of utility line hit.
When dealing with natural gas, propane, or petroleum lines, leave the area and contact 911 as well as the facility operator. Don’t do anything that could start a blaze, and make sure everyone is aware of the situation. Keep the public out by cordoning off the area. Stay away from the gas and do not attempt to repair the pipe on your own.
Warning everyone in the area, including emergency responders, that the ground and objects near the point of contact may be energized in the case of electrical wires.
If you have a radio or phone, call the electricity utility operator or the fire department. Otherwise, stay on the excavator and ask someone to call for utility and emergency help.
Those near the excavator or point of contact should keep both feet together and remain still. They must not come into contact with the excavator or the material. Only leave the excavator and the surrounding area after an official from the electric utility has declared it safe. If a fire, explosion, or other hazard requires quick evacuation, jump (not step) from the apparatus and land with both feet. Make sure you’re at least 25 to 30 feet away. Take no ordinary walking steps.
Notify the facility owner of any damaged communications cables, and do not study or stare at broken, severed, or disconnected fibers. Keep a safe distance away and block the area to keep others out.
Contact the pipeline operator after examining the situation and ensuring that nothing appears to be harmed. Minor nicks or dents can lead to major issues in the future.
If a homeowner has consulted you but intends to do it themselves, remind them that calling 811 isn’t just for professionals; anyone planning to dig must dial this number.
How close can you dig to a utility line?
- Maintain a distance of at least 18 inches between your trenches or holes and the 811 markers. Because the equipment used to find subterranean wires aren’t always perfect, 811 standards recommend keeping holes or trenches at least 18 inches away from marked lines on both sides.
- If you built subterranean wiring or pipelines yourself, look up their location in your notes. Because most irrigation pipes and low-voltage wires are shallow, you can locate them by drilling a series of test holes by hand.
- Private location services can evaluate your property and locate any subsurface pipes, conduits, or wires for a fee. This is especially useful for private utility lines that were not installed by the government.
- Slowly dig. Irrigation lines and landscape lighting conduits and cables are not detected by 811 locating services, so dig slowly and deliberately, inspecting the excavation for unexpected pipes and wires on a regular basis.
Is there a minimum cable depth for electricity?
Underground electricity wires are normally hidden in ducts between 0.45m and 1m below ground level, or may be covered with a layer of tiles, boards, or colored plastic tape about 150mm above ground level.
What happens if I dig and come upon a water line?
Calling 811 before you dig is the most important step you can take to avoid an accident. When homeowners and contractors dial 811, a team of experts connects them with a team of experts who notify the proper utility providers of the requester’s purpose to dig. A team of professional locators is then dispatched to the excavation site to use color-coded paint and flags to indicate the locations of subsurface utilities.
Fast Fact: An underground utility line is broken every 6 minutes because someone decided to dig before dialing 811.
Even a single line struck when digging can result in significant injury, fines, hefty repair expenses, and power interruptions. So, even if you’re only excavating a few inches underground, we strongly advise you to have your utilities marked so you don’t accidentally hit one. Calling 811 before you start your project, whether you’re hiring a professional or doing it yourself, is smart digging!
How far can I dig without jeopardizing my safety?
For digging trenches, holes, and excavations, OSHA and CGA give health and safety rules. To avoid damaging the utility line, state building standards require digging 18 to 24 inches (457mm to 610mm) away from it and its marking.
In Maryland, how deep are electric lines buried?
The excavation location should be marked with white paint or stakes, according to the owner members. This will not only shorten the time it takes to locate a property, but it may also prevent superfluous property markers.
You may carefully “hand dig around the marked lines” after the member-owners have marked or cleared your dig location. Within the following areas, do not use any mechanical, electric, or power equipment:
- Excavation in Maryland: 18 inches of the designated lines.
- Excavation in the District of Columbia: 18 inches of the designated lines.
- Excavation in Delaware: 24 inches of the designated lines.
What is the depth at which a natural gas pipeline is buried?
On private land, service lines on distribution systems must be 12 inches deep, and 18 inches deep along roads and streets. The burial depth is only for installation, and there is no need in federal rules that it be maintained over time.
What is the depth at which oil pipes are buried?
Steel or plastic tubes with an inner diameter of 4 to 48 inches are used to construct oil pipelines (100 to 1,220 mm). The majority of pipelines are buried at a depth of 3 to 6 feet (0.91 to 1.83 m). A multitude of technologies are used to protect pipelines from impact, abrasion, and corrosion. Wood lagging (wood slats), concrete coating, rockshield, high-density polyethylene, imported sand padding, sacrificial cathodes, and padding machines are examples of these materials.
Crude oil contains different levels of paraffin wax, and wax buildup in a pipeline can occur in colder locations. Pigging, or the process of deploying machines known as “pigs” to undertake various maintenance activities on a pipeline, is frequently used to check and clean these pipelines. “Scrapers” or “Go-devils” are other names for the gadgets. Smart pigs (sometimes called “intelligent” or “intelligence” pigs) are used to detect anomalies in pipes such as dents, metal loss due to corrosion, cracking, or other mechanical defects. These devices are launched from pig-launcher stations and travel through the pipeline, either removing wax deposits and particles that may have collected inside the line or inspecting and recording the line’s condition.
Pipelines for natural gas are made of carbon steel and range in diameter from 2 to 60 inches (51 to 1,524 mm) depending on the type of pipeline. Compressor stations pressurize the gas, which is odorless unless a regulatory authority requires it to be blended with a mercaptan odorant.