Safety and health newsletter for the Oregon construction industry

September 16, 2014


Don't forget. Call before you dig.

Call before you dig

What is first thing you should do before you dig that hole in the ground? Call 811 to make sure that you won't be digging into a buried oil or gas pipeline, an electric or fiber optic cable, a telephone, or a water main.

It doesn't matter if you are a contractor doing a major excavation or a homeowner digging a hole for a shrub – you must call 811 or the One Call Center before you dig. (There is an exemption for private property, if your excavation is less than 12 inches deep and is not in an established easement.) Do not rely on old drawings or maps to locate buried utility lines, either. They may not be reliable.

The Oregon Utility Notification Center (OUNC) is the state agency that administers the statewide One Call system. When you call the nationwide 811 number, your call will be routed to the Oregon One Call Center.

A call to the One Call Center provides you with critical information about buried utility lines and protects you from liability if a utility line is damaged.

How the One Call system works

Call 811 at least two business days before you plan to dig.

Tell the operator where you are planning to dig and what type of work you will be doing. The OUNC will notify the affected local utilities companies about your intent to dig.

Within two business days, the utility will send a locator to mark the approximate location of the underground lines, pipes, and cables with color-coded paint so you will know where they are.

The color codes indicate what is buried below.

Locating natural gas pipelines

Permanent pipeline markers, which are located along roads, railways, and other public right-of-ways, show the approximate location of the buried pipelines. However, the depth and location of the pipelines vary within the right-of-way and the markers are not located precisely over a line, nor do they indicate the depth of the line. Never guess about the location of a natural gas pipeline. Call 811 and ask for locates.

Use hand tools to expose precise locations of natural gas pipelines

Use only hand tools within 24 inches of each marked line to carefully expose the exact location before using power equipment. If you damage a pipe, immediately call the pipeline owner. Gouges, scrapes, or dents to a pipeline can lead to future problems.

Rules and requirements

Oregon Utilities Notification Center

Oregon OSHA

Subdivision 3/P: Excavations

Employers must also follow the Oregon Utilities Notification Center's rules and requirements.

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Reprinting, excerpting, or plagiarizing any part of this publication is fine with us!

But remember: the information in this newsletter is intended to highlight safe work practices, but it does not replace Oregon OSHA workplace safety and health rules.

For information about Oregon OSHA services and answers to technical questions, call (503) 378-3272 or toll-free within Oregon, (800) 922-2689.