How to Safely Excavate Around Underground Utilities

May 6, 2024

Excavation can be a dangerous project, especially since heavy machinery is being used. Not only is it essential to protect crew members from accidents and injuries, but underground utility safety practices must be followed at all times. If these underground utilities are hit, it can result in injury – and also damage the whole system, leading to outages and complications for everyone in the area.

Our team at Venditti is here to help, offering professional services for your digging and excavation project. We have years of experience in the industry and always follow the highest standards for excavation safety, ensuring that your project is completed successfully and without damage.

The Dangers of Excavation

When you start digging on your property, it’s essential to know what is underground. There are many different types of utility lines and pathways that need to be avoided. Underground utility safety can help you avoid common problems such as gas leaks, electrocution, explosions, and service disruptions.

Not only do these safe digging practices help you avoid injury and complications, but they are also critical to minimize the risk of costly repairs. If a line is hit and local service is disrupted, then it can be quite expensive to complete the repairs and get everything back online again.

If you don’t have excavation experience, then it’s best to call the experts for assistance. At the bare minimum, you need to map out the utility lines (through utility locating services) in the area so you know where to use caution when digging. The safest approach is to hire the experts to handle every detail of the excavation – from planning to digging, completion, and cleanup.

Safe Excavation Practices for Homeowners

Are you preparing for an excavation project on your property? Whether you are getting ready for new construction or demolition is occurring, you need to be proactive about safe excavation practices. These are some common recommendations to ensure safety on your property:

  • Identify All Utilities in the Area: What types of utilities are located underground? You need to know everything that is down there and where they are located, including water, electricity, sewer, gas, telecommunication lines, and more. It might be necessary to reach out to the utility companies directly to identify the exact locations. Don’t start digging until you have a clear idea of what you are dealing with.
  • Utility Locating Services: One of the best solutions is to bring in a team to help with utility locating services. The ground will be marked using a standardized color-coding system. These different colors coordinate with various types of utilities. You need to understand what the markings mean.
  • Exposing Utilities: When you are in a “tolerance zone,” then this area should be dug manually. Heavy equipment and large machinery shouldn’t be used without a defined safety distance on either side of the utility lines.
  • Excavating in the Area: When you know where the lines are located, it’s clear which areas can be excavated safely. For example, if you are a safe distance from the utilities, you should be able to dig without issue.
  • Preventive Utility Switches: Even if you know where the utility lines are located and you are being careful to work around them, it’s still recommended that the lines be turned off while the work is commencing. This way, if an accident occurs (such as an electricity line or sewer pipe being hit), then it reduces the mess and complications that will occur.

Make sure that you are following all protocols for underground utility safety at all times, especially when heavy machinery is being used. There are specific restrictions managing how this equipment can be used. While mechanized digging can be effective and helpful, it should only be done in the right place and at the right time.

The Importance of Calling Before You Dig

The most important thing you need to know is never dig before making a phone call. You need to know the exact locations of every utility line, and the only way to map it out correctly is by calling the experts.

Calling before you dig is a smart choice. It can save you expensive repairs and a lot of headaches in the future. In most areas, there is a regional hotline – typically “811” on your phone.


How to identify underground utilities before digging?

The first step is to call before you dig. This hotline is a free service that connects you with utility providers. They will come to your site and mark the estimated location of the buried lines. Also, watch for any visible clues above ground, such as meter covers, utility boxes, or warning signs.

How to prevent damage to underground utilities during excavation?

Always manage the “tolerance zones” accordingly. This safety perimeter will keep you a safe distance away from the utility lines. In these areas, hand digging is only allowed. If you are going to be using power equipment, then the utility lines need to be carefully exposed first with hand digging – then you can pull out the equipment.

How to choose the right excavation equipment for working around utilities?

In the tolerance zone, only hand tools are allowed: shovels, non-conducting probes, and other similar items. Sometimes, small mechanical options can be used, such as vacuum excavators if needed. Remember that heavy machinery (such as tractors and backhoes) should only be used after the utilities are exposed. You need to confirm the location and depth of all of the utility lines before you start digging.

No matter the size of your project, always err on the side of caution. If there are any questions or hesitations about the project, then it’s essential to consult with the utility company for information and guidance.

Call the Excavation Experts

Do you have questions about underground utility safety? Or maybe you need help with an upcoming excavation project? Contact a demolition contractor you can trust. Call our team at Venditti, LLC, to learn more about the full-service solutions we provide. We are always here to help!

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