Safe digging starts with 811

April 6, 2021
Tina Beach, a CHS public safety expert, offers a simple step to keep equipment operators safe during digging projects. Call 811 before you dig to ask utility providers to mark underground lines you need to avoid.

Warm weather marks a new season for soil-moving projects. If your to-do list includes any digging, be sure you’re including time to mark underground utilities by calling 811.

“The first thing farmers and ranchers should do after mapping out their projects is to call 811 to have local utility providers mark where underground lines are located,” says Tina Beach, public safety expert for CHS. “Be sure to call at least three or four business days prior to beginning your project to ensure there’s enough time to get underground utilities marked.” The free service will mark the locations of buried utilities with paint or flags, so you don’t unintentionally damage an underground utility line.

Unseen risk

An underground utility is hit every nine minutes in the United States, according to data from Common Ground Alliance. “People on farms and ranches might think that statistic only applies to people living in big cities,’” says Beach, “but the reality is that underground utilities are struck nearly three times per day on farms and ranches. With so many chores that require digging, from putting in fence posts to ditching in water lines, the 811 phone number is a free, extra insurance policy that can be the difference between life and death.”

Heavy price

 “I know of several instances where installing drain tiles has resulted in fatalities,” says Beach. “We think we know where utility lines are buried, but the reality is that sometimes pipelines and underground utilities take unexpected twists and turns, depending on land formations and other factors. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.”

Beach recalls an instance when an organic farmer struck a hazardous liquid pipeline while installing drain tiles. The damage caused a leak and it took three years for the farm to get its organic production license back, says Beach. “Those types of situations demonstrate the importance of farmers and ranchers using the call-before-you-dig resource, which can help ensure that they and their families stay safe.”

To find out more, call 811 or visit call811.com for safety information, statistics and your state’s regulations on safe digging.