Posted on April 11, 2012

Call 811 Before You Dig to Prevent Injuries, Damage, Outages

By David Kligman

Whether it’s planting a tree, installing a sprinkler system or building a fence, homeowners and professionals need to know what’s under the ground they’re digging.

April is National Safe Digging Month. PG&E is using the opportunity to remind customers to call 811 before starting any excavation project to avoid hitting natural gas pipelines, electric power lines and other utilities that can be buried just below the surface.

Not taking the precaution can lead to injuries, property damage and outages.

811: Safe Digging Month“We use the 811 religiously,” said Pete Cerda, safety director for Sacramento-based Irish Construction, an AT&T subcontractor that performs work throughout Northern California.

Cerda estimates his nearly 400 employees call in as many as 15,000 tickets a year with Underground Service Alert (USA), which notifies local utilities to mark the approximate location of their underground facilities.

If Cerda’s crew arrives at a job without the markings, work is suspended until USA is notified. For the past several years, Cerda has invited PG&E representatives to attend regular safety meetings to reinforce the message with his employees.

“One thing we teach them is when they arrive at a job site the area has to be surveyed and marks have to be present and accounted for before any work is to be done,” Cerda said. “We don’t do the job until we get somebody to do the marks and we know we have a safe and clear path.”

The service with USA is free and available from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for holidays. California law requires anyone doing excavation work to notify utilities at least two working days before digging. Requests are accepted as early as 14 days in advance of an excavation. Once a request is received, the customer or contractor will receive a list of notified utilities that may have underground lines in the area.

PG&E offers these tips for a safe excavation:

  • If you believe a utility has not marked its lines, call 811 again to notify USA.
  • On paved surfaces, mark the proposed excavation area with white chalk-based paint. Homeowners can also use flour, sugar or other white substances.
  • On unpaved surfaces, use flags or stakes to mark the area.
  • Carefully hand dig within 24 inches on either side of a utility-marked facility.
  • Be careful not to erase facility marks while working. If you can’t see the markings, call 811 and request a remarking.
  • 811 requests are active for 28 days. Notify USA if work continues beyond that time.
  • Immediately notify utilities about any type of contact or damage to their wires or pipes.

If there is any type of damage to PG&E electric wires or gas pipelines or if there’s a possible gas leak, promptly move to a safe location, call 911 and then call PG&E at (800) 743-5000.

E-mail David Kligman at david.kligman@pge.com.

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