Know Your Colors, and Call Before You Dig – Safety talks week 24

There’s a good reason why utility workers call before they dig. It protects the public and    water utility crew who will be involved in the excavation, no shortcuts can be

taken when digging excavations. How often do digging-related accidents occur? According to Common Ground Alliance, 700,00O underground lines are struck each year. Aside from the risk of injury or worse, you or your crew might be held liable for lost services,

Call Before You Dig

Avoiding utility lines starts with knowing specific colors for each utility service. Some may be only feet or even inches from each other.

Lines marked on and flags placed in the ground indicate that various utilities have been to the scene and marked their lines. The colors associated with the utilities are as follows.

  • White is used by the excavators to indicate where the excavation will take place.
  • Red indicated electric power lines, cables, conducts, or lighting cables
  • Orange indicates telecommunication, alarm, or signal lines, Cables, or conduits.
  • fellow indicates natural gas, oil, steam, petroleum, or flammable material.
  • Green indicates sewers and drain lines.
  • Purple indicates reclaimed water, irrigation, and slurry lines.
  • Pink indicates temporary survey marking and unknown utilities.
  • Blue indicates water lines.

Occasionally, a locator may have a false positive and will need to cover up a previous marking so that it doesn’t become confused with the new one. Some crews carry a can of black spray paint for this purpose.

It is the excavation crew’s responsibility to maintain marks that may be removed during excavation. Some excavators use offset markers to clearly mark the location and direction to the utility they are referring to.

Weather and traffic can make it difficult to see where the utility markings are. In such instances, DON’T GUESS—call 811 for a re—mark! This might require a suspension of the project for 2—3 days, but ensuring workers’ safety is worth it.

Emergency Repairs—When You Cannot Call 2-3 Days in Advance

Although utilities are usually given 2—3 days to mark their lines before an excavation begins, for an immediate water line repair that requires excavation, take the following steps.

  1. Make sure cii has been called and notified that an emergency excavation needs to occur. They will begin to contact utilities and have them shut off their lines.
  2. Crews should shut down all valves and controls of the damaged water line.
  3. Wait a reasonable amount of time before excavating. That determination is made by a supervisor who carefully considers the immediate threat to life or property.
  4. Use Tolerance Zone “noninvasive” or soft digging.” Per 811, the excavation Tolerance Zone is “comprised of the width of the facility plus 18 in. on either side of the outside edge of the underground facility on a horizontal plane.”

Laws vary, but recommended practices for noninvasive or soft digging within 18—24 in. of a marked line generally include the following.

» Use a blunt end shovel rather than a sharp one and/or a vacuum or suction excavator and pneumatic hand tools, if available.

» Do not use a pry bar or pickaxe.

  • Use a gentle prying and loosening technique with the shovel,

» Do not stab at the ground.

» When possible, dig at an angle that is parallel with the utility line to loosen the dirt around the line.

« Support or brace lines when soil around them is removed.

  • Treat all lines as if they were live.

What to Do When a Utility Line Is Hit

What happens when you are on a water utility crew that accidentally strikes a utility line in the area? That depends on what type of line is struck.

Regardless of the type of utility struck, immediately halt the excavation and shut off all mechanized equipment.

Following is a list of steps to take based on the type of utility struck.

  1. If a fiber optic line is struck:
    1. Do not look directly at the cut, as it can produce light capable of damaging your eyesight.
  • If a gas line is struck:
    • Evaluate and secure the area and cull 9i 1 and the gas company.
    • move potential sources of ignition: leave all equipment turned off, including engines, phones, and two-way radios.
  • Do not attempt to fill in the excavation allow the gas to dissipate into the atmosphere

If the gas leak is on fire. let the fire burn and do not attempt to extinguish it.

  • If an electrical line is struck:

a, immediately call the power company so that they can deenergizer the line.                                                                

 b, if you are on equipment. such as a backhoe, stay on the equipment until you are sure there is no current flowing through the machine.

c.   If you must get off, jump off and land on both feet (do not STEP from the machine). Do not touch the ground and the machine at the same time.

d, never touch or pull an Injured cowor1‹et off the electrical line as you may become part of the current.

There is no such thing as “barely nicking” a utility line. Any time a utility line is struck, you must report it immediately to the utility involved and the 811-call center.

For more information about specific requirements by state, visit www,, In Canada, the TransCanada website on the topic is ca1l811,com/about-us/sponsors/TransCanada,

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