Tips of the Trade Brought to you by Duke Energy
Hand Digging Techniques

Duke Energy Emergencies
Carolinas: 800-769-3766
Indiana: 800-343-3525

811 Know what's below. Call before you dig.

Ohio: 800-362-2764
Indiana: 800-382-5544
Kentucky: 800-752-6007
N. Carolina: 800-632-4949
S. Carolina: 888-721-7877

OH/KY 877-700-3853

Electric meter and service removal: Completed in 10 working days for residential properties and 14 working days for non-residential properties.

Gas meter removal: Completed in 1-3 working days for residential or non-residential properties, with a minimum of 7 working days notice.

Abandoned gas service at main or curb valve: Completed in 1-10 working days, with a minimum of 14 working days notice.

IN 800-774-0246
Electric meter and service removal: Completed in 3 working days for residential or non-residential properties.

NC/SC 800-653-5307
Electric meter and service removal: Completed in 5 working days for residential or non-residential properties.



Why Is Hand Digging Required?
If you are going to cross or work near a buried utility line, you must first expose the line to visually verify its precise depth and location. In some states you must hand dig before power digging in the tolerance zone* around marked utilities. And in some states, only hand digging or other non-intrusive methods are allowed in the tolerance zone.

Don’t Take Shortcuts

  • Don’t assume utilities are buried at the required depth, as soil or grade conditions may have changed since they were installed.
  • Don’t rely on locator marks. These marks show the direction that lines are running and their approximate location, but they do not indicate depth.

Hand Dig Safely
You must use reasonable care when exposing buried utilities. Never use a pickaxe or pointed spade, or stomp on a shovel with both feet. Instead, use the following techniques:

  • Use a blunt shovel to loosen the soil, and a regular shovel to remove it.
  • Do not dig straight down, as this will cause damage if you hit the line.
  • Work at an angle so the shovel will slide along the surface of any utility it may contact. Or, approach the utility from the side, using a prying motion to break up and remove soil.
  • Vacuum excavation equipment may be used as an alternative to hand digging, provided the operator is a competent and qualified worker and follows manufacturer’s instructions.

No matter which method you use, follow recommended practices per your state for supporting exposed pipelines and for backfilling any facilities you expose.

*The Tolerance Zone
A safety area that spans the width of a marked underground utility plus a specified distance from each indicated outside edge of the utility:

  • 18 inches in Kentucky and Ohio
  • 24 inches in Indiana and South Carolina
  • 30 inches in North Carolina

Would You Like to Know More?
Additional overhead line safety tips, case studies, instructional videos, and training tools can all be found, at no charge to you, on Duke Energy’s e-SMARTworkers™ website.

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