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April is Oregon Safe Digging Month



March 29, 2013 (2013-01) 

Contacts:  Susan Ackerman, Chair, 503 378-6611, Stephen Bloom, Commissioner, 503 378-6611, John Savage, Commissioner, 503 378-6611, Bob Valdez, Public Affairs Specialist, 503 378-8962 

Salem, OR.  Do you plan adding on to your deck, planting a hedge or pounding in a new mailbox? Have you first checked to make sure you don’t hit any surprises?

“Spring is here and many Oregonians are beginning projects that involve moving dirt,” said Commission Chair Susan Ackerman.  “By calling 811, you can avoid serious injury by finding out exactly where underground utility lines are located in your work area.”

811 calls are directed to a local call center and are sent to the affected utilities in the area of your planned project. Utility staff will then come out to your project area within 2 business days of your initial call and mark any underground utility lines so you will know where to dig safely. The entire process is free. Different colors of paint or stakes are used to identify what kind of utility line is buried below the ground. They include:

  • Red – Electric
  • Yellow – Gas/Petroleum Pipe Line
  • Orange – Communications, Telephone/CATV
  • Blue – Potable Water
  • Purple – Reclaimed Water
  • Green – Sewer/Drainage.
The utility line depths vary significantly and there may be multiple utility lines in one area. Also, some utility lines are only a few inches below the surface, making them easy to strike even during shallow digging projects, such as plantings. If you hit an underground utility line while digging, you can harm yourself or those around you, disrupt service to an entire neighborhood, and potentially be responsible for fines and repair costs.

“Recent data shows that buried utility lines in the U.S. were struck more than 200,000 times in one year, with over 30 percent of such hits resulting from not calling before digging,” according to the Commission’s Pipeline Safety Chief Michael Thompson. “For example, gas, electric, water, telephone, cable TV and other lines may be buried in a homeowner’s property beginning with the paved area at the street or alley. The most effective way to prevent damage to such lines is to call 811 if you plan to dig, wait for utilities to mark their lines and then dig with hand tools around those marks,” adds Thompson.

April 2013 has again been designated “National Safe Digging Month,” dedicated to increasing awareness of safe digging practices across the country. It also celebrates the creation of the national call-before-you-dig number.
In addition, on March 23, 2010 Governor Kitzhaber proclaimed April 2013 as “Oregon Safe Digging Month.”
Through the education of safe digging practices, professional excavators and homeowners can save time and money keeping our state safe and connected by making a simple call using the 811 number in advance of any digging project; then, waiting the required amount of time (two business days); respecting the marked lines by maintaining visual definition throughout the course of the excavation; and finally, digging with care around the marks will help make excavating in our state safer Thompson added.
The Oregon Public Utility Commission asks all of us to help make Safe Digging Month, (April 2013) the safest month yet for digging. Please, make sure you “know what’s below, call 811” before you start to dig.