A Quick Guide to Underground Utility Labeling

A Quick Guide to Underground Utility Labeling

Need to dig? Read this first.

Underground utility marking is crucial to keeping worksites, facilities, and properties compliant with state regulations and workers safe and protected. Industrial settings are fast-paced, multi-headed beasts. Consequently, safety/facility managers are often forced to juggle several things at once: monitoring the state of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), managing visual communication within the facility, creating and overseeing training programs, keeping abreast of OSHA and ANSI standards, and ensuring that their facility and all of its workers are compliant with all standards and laws applicable.

Nevertheless, having a clear awareness of where underground utilities are is a crucial component of any facility. When a project calls for digging, underground utility lines must be labeled accurately by location and contents. Once you're aware of where these lines are, you can avoid severe accidents that can inflict deadly injury and incur catastrophic damages. Digging into an underground line is not only dangerous, but it has the potential to shut down a community's access to that utility until the line can be repaired, and such operations require loads of manpower and costly resources.

This article outlines how to go about locating underground utilities and how to ensure that the utilities located underground aren't accidentally hit during a digging project.

Stay safe during digs. Let us help.

Step One: Locate Utilities.

If the property on which your facility resides hasn't yet been checked, it's imperative to locate utilities right away. If you're in the construction business, checking on underground utilities before you start a new build is a must. It's recommended that you arrange to get checked at least two or three business days before shovels hit the dirt.

But how do I check?

We're glad you asked. Luckily, the process has been made simple. After years of trial and error, the powers that be have applied the Kaizen principle of continuous improvement to the process of checking for underground utilities. Finally, getting your property checked couldn't be simpler.

Make a call to 811 before you start digging. No matter what state you're in, the number is the same. Once you make the call, you'll give the operator the address of your facility and what type of work will be executed. These calls are simple, fast, and stress-free. They usually last no more than five minutes or so.

The operator will then check resources on their end, and if underground utilities are present, the operator will notify the utility in question of the project.

Step Two: Wait.

If your digging area is above underground utilities, the 811 operators will pass along your information to the appropriate utilities. Those utilities will reach out to you in 2 to 3 days to set up a time for site inspection. Wait times do vary from state to state. Consult this comprehensive dig state registry for information in your area.

Whether you're holding a ticket at the DMV or sitting in a dentist's chair with your mouth pried open, waiting is never fun. For businesses, waiting can feel like losing money, but waiting for utility inspection before construction/digging is necessary to avoid potential injuries, huge damages, and costly fines. Wait — it's worth it.

On average, between 7-8 utility operators will need to check your site or property for underground lines.

Step 3: Inspection and Confirmation.

Once you've achieved contact with utility providers, they'll make an appointment to inspect your construction site or facility. These inspectors will flag the areas where utilities are present.

Before you dig, confirm that all of the appropriate utility operators have been contacted. Also, even if your 811 operation center says there are no underground utilities in the area, check for yourself. Look for markings like manhole covers, utility boxes, casing vent markers, or any other utility indicator.

Step 4: Mark spots with Underground Utility Labeling

When inspectors mark utilities, they will do so temporarily. They usually use little wire flags, chalk, or lawn paint. While these are great short-term solutions, a strong wind, a careless step, or a few hours of rain can wash these markers away for good, so it's important to get more permanent markings so that you won't have to go through the whole process again the next time you have a project at the same facility.

FlexPost® Flexible Utility Markers are a sturdy, long-term solution to underground utility labeling, and allows for workers to see clearly where underground. These markers are built to endure the elements, so they can be counted on to be a long-term underground utility labeling solution.

Step 5: Sustain

For facilities, keeping track of where underground utilities are located on the grounds means that you won't need to lose time scheduling another inspection the next time you need to complete a construction project. 

Getting long-term markers is a good step in ensuring people know where these utilities reside. It's also important to take photos or create an accurate map to be kept somewhere highly visible like the break room or the safety board. This action will ensure workers and managers know where to go when it's time to check for underground utilities before the next project.

Underground utility labeling is a necessary part of construction projects. Make sure your team is set up for success.

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