The month of April marks National Safe Digging Month, since it traditionally kicks off the season of outdoor improvements. However, utility companies and state officials are urging homeowners to delay spring digging projects during the COVID-19 emergency.
Homeowners and professional contractors are required to call 8-1-1 at least three business days before undertaking home improvement or landscaping projects that require excavation. But the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has asked consumers, businesses, and contractors to delay non-essential home digging projects to help safeguard citizens, protect utility crews, and avoid accidental damage to underground lines that could disrupt utility service during this stressful time.
National Safe Digging Month is an initiative designed to raise awareness about safe digging practices and to help prevent property damage, injuries and utility outages. Nationwide, there are more than 20 million miles of underground pipes and cables, or more than one football field of underground facilities for every man, woman, and child in the United States.
According to the Common Ground Alliance, more than 38 million people will dig this year without having underground lines marked, resulting in underground utility line damage every six minutes. By calling 8-1-1, the risk of causing damage is reduced to less than one percent.
If a digging project is essential, excavators must call 8-1-1 at least three business days before starting a project that involves digging to ensure underground utilities are properly marked, which reduces the risk of damage. There is no charge to homeowners for 8-1-1 requests.
When making the call to 8-1-1, callers are connected to their local one-call center. The one-call center then notifies the appropriate utility companies of the location of the planned excavation activity. Following receipt of the call, utility companies send out locators to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags or paint.
“We have taken steps to temporarily avoid sending utility crews and equipment into homes and neighborhoods unless it is absolutely necessary,” Hans Bell, UGI Chief Operating Officer, said. “We appreciate the public’s cooperation in avoid digging projects if possible. However, if a digging project is essential, it is critical that homeowners and contractors call 8-1-1 before digging to prevent the risk of striking an underground utility line.”