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 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.
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.
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
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.
Do you like this email series? Do you find the information helpful? We’d like to know. Please reply to this email and tell us what you think, or let us know what topics you’d like to see in future emails.