Unsure What’s Below? Don’t Start Digging Before You Know!

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® Program

With the snow melting, a ground ready for planting is beginning to reveal itself. Many eager homeowners are gearing up to start those outdoor digging projects. However, before you reach for that shovel, remember to call 811, the national call-before-you-dig number, to ensure that your buried utility lines are marked.

Did you know failure to call 811 before digging results in damage to a buried utility once every six minutes across the United States? Disturbance to an underground utility line can cause damage to the environment, serious personal injuries, disruption of service for the neighborhood and lead to expenses in fines and repair costs. Now in its eleventh consecutive year, National Safe Digging Month celebrated during April, symbolizes the start of many spring digging projects. Although installing a new mailbox, building a deck, and planting a tree or garden may seem like a simple task, it still warrants a call to 811. The call before you dig process is both free and simple, consisting of 5 steps:

  1. Notify your local one call center by calling 811 (or making an online request) 2-3 days before work begins. This lead time may vary from state to state; therefore, visit call811.com to locate the rules for your state.
  2. Wait the required amount of time for affected utility operators to respond to your request.
  3. Confirm that all affected utility operators have responded to your request and marked underground utilities.
  4. Respect the marks or markers.
  5. Dig carefully around the marks with care.

Bunge SD Council Bluffs, IA May 2018Since children are curious and love to dig, it is never too early to teach them about the importance of safe digging. At Progressive Agriculture Safety Days®, activities and demonstrations are designed to reinforce underground utilities safety using verbal, visual and hands-on learning opportunities. Thanks to a unique partnership with our 5-star sponsor, TransCanada, a leader in the responsible development and reliable operation of North American energy infrastructure, this topic has been propelled to the forefront with an Underground Utilities Safety Module. The module focuses on two main objectives: The importance of calling 811 before you dig in the United States (and the importance of call or click before you dig in Canada) and pipeline leak recognition and response. The complete module, including curriculum, an interactive display and scratch & sniff cards are available for use at all Progressive Agriculture Safety Days® throughout North America. Additional support for awareness of underground utilities safety has been received from 4-star sponsors CHS, Enbridge and Alliance Pipeline.

Remember, for all digging projects large or small, be sure to start with an important call!

To date, more than 1.7 million children & adults have been reached by Progressive Agriculture Safety Days®. Learn more about the program by calling 888-257-3529 or visiting progressiveag.org. You can help send another child to a Safety Day with a modest donation of only $13. Donate by texting the word “safetyday” to 41444 or visit progressiveag.org/Donate

Photo: In 2018, more than 27,000 youth participants and adult volunteers were educated on Underground Utilities Safety at one of the 380 Progressive Agriculture Safety Days® held throughout North America. The topic was reinforced through various demonstrations and hands-on activities.