Being A Safe Digging Partner

We have all heard the phrase, “Safe digging is a shared responsibility,” and most of us are committed to doing our share. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to know what our share is. Here are a few easy tips for excavators to ensure they are protecting our buried infrastructure, our onsite crews, and the communities where we work.

Make sure locator marks match aboveground indicators

Comparing the marks made by the facility owner’s locator to aboveground indicators on the dig site is one of the easiest and most effective ways to safeguard against utility strikes. While facilities are tucked out of site and out of mind for most citizens, excavators know there are surface indicators all around us. These indicators include, but are not limited to:

– Commercial Business Sign
– Electrical box
– Exposed Pipe
– Fire Protection System
– Manhole Cover
– Marking Paint or Flags
– Ownership Transfer Point
– Parking Lot Lighting
– Pedestal
– Pipeline Marker
– Propane Tank
– Regulator
– Saw Cut Marking
– Splicing Box
– Transformer
– Trench Plate
– Utility Meter
– Water Valve

Checking for aboveground indicators displays a combination of common sense, experience, and discipline. Although seemingly a simple task, the benefits greatly outweigh the amount of time and effort required. Excavators should make it a high priority task once they arrive at a jobsite after the site location(s) has been completed.

White line

White lining is the practice of marking or lining a proposed dig area prior to excavation. The goal of white lining is to clearly communicate the full breadth of the planned excavation covered on a specific One Call ticket so locators can effectively and efficiently mark the area. White lining is used in conjunction with the text descriptions of the excavation on the locate ticket. The visual of a white lined area greatly reduces the possibility of mistakes. In fact, a 1997 safety study conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board, “Protecting Public Safety through Excavation Damage Prevention”, endorsed white lining as a practice that aids in preventing excavation damages.

Along with the safety benefits of white lining proposed excavation, the practice can also improve the overall efficiency of the locating process. Locators arriving at a work site have a clearer picture of the work site and can avoid marking areas irrelevant to the proposed dig. Christopher Koch, columnist with dp-PRO, wrote about his own frustrations as a locator with failures to white line in a piece, “As Long as You’re Here,” featured in the 2020 Special Locate issue.

It is important to note that white lining should be used as an additional form of communication between excavator and locator and is not a replacement for a thorough written description of the dig site submitted on a One Call ticket.

White line laws vary from state to state, but it is a best practice no matter your location. Check with your local state One Call for more information on laws in your area, expanded best practices, and white line marking techniques. For example, visit JULIE One Call of Illinois for a guide to pre-marking standards and terms. (

Click before you dig

Submitting a locate request before excavating is more than a best practice, it is the law. Specific laws regarding the timing of a locate request vary by state but submitting a locate request before excavation is mandatory nationwide. See the One Call and State Law Directory beginning on page 49 for details on the laws in your state. Many notification centers now offer on online alternative to placing a “One Call.” Using this online platform enhances your ability to provide accurate, concise details of the proposed excavation site.

Advantages of submitting an online ticket

– Available for submission 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

– Skip the possibility of waiting on hold.

– Electronic maps often available to specify excavation area.

– No possibility of verbal transcription errors.

Continue your training

Learning and following best practices helps establish a solid foundation for safety, but continual learning is recommended to keep pace with industry advances and new techniques. Luckily, the excavation industry has a fast-expanding catalogue of training opportunities focused on excavation safety and damage prevention.

By becoming an Excavation Safety Alliance (ESA) member, you join the utility safety industry’s first membership community focused on all facets of damage prevention and excavation safety education. ESA launches spring of 2021 and consists of:

ASK THE EXPERT: A series of videos, podcasts, blog posts where industry experts answer specific questions or provide insights on solutions to common problems.

TOWN HALL MEETINGS: Discussions led by a moderator, often with a panel of industry experts that focus on specific topics of importance to the industry. All stakeholder members have access to these town hall forums and members have access to participate and provide insight. Town Halls follow two different formats

Town Hall Solution Series are multipart events which begin with a discussion focused on identifying aspects of a specific issue, followed by forums directed specifically on building potential solutions. The final step is the formation of small groups who volunteer to work on paths forward for suggested solutions for presentation to the industry through ESA and dp-PRO.

Town Hall Forums are open dialog conversations on hot industry issues like industry studies, new laws, etc. Visit ExcavationSafetyAlliance. com for details and dates on upcoming topics.

WORKSHOPS: In-depth explorations on specific topics available both as live virtual workshops and as recorded on-demand viewing. Workshops available spring of 2021 include:

CAMO’s Emergency Response Workshop: CAMO (Coastal and Marine Operators) explores the issues and challenges in preventing spills, releases, and damage to underwater pipelines and utilities which negatively impact the environment and public safety.

Leading Practices on Cross Bore Safety: Created to provide guidance for minimizing utility conflicts due to cross bore strikes, this course covers a wide range of cross bore safety topics, from evaluation of existing cross cores to regulatory requirements.

TRAINING VIDEOS: In-depth videos which dive into the details of key topics including episodic series on Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) and Vacuum Excavation.

NETWORKING: Through scheduled networking events, ESA members bring conversations and content together to create a digital community that moves beyond ideas to take meaningful actions.

VIRTUAL SYMPOSIUMS: A variety of professional and industry speakers gather to offer education with live Q&A, along with group networking, on specific topics or industries. Upcoming symposiums in 2021 include the Global GPR Congress, Electric Symposium, and the Utility Coordination Symposium.

Many educational videos and blog posts from around the world are available free to non-members. Membership brings access to an extensive catalogue of exclusive content. Visit to learn more.

Participate in industry groups

A wide variety of stakeholders are invested in the safety of buried infrastructure, and groups help organize the many players, topics, and issues. Participation in these groups is a fantastic avenue to professional growth and continued learning and ensures others can consider and learn from your unique perspective. A quick search on google or LinkedIn can yield dozens of immediate results on groups designed around your specific area of interest.

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