Utility Locates and Safe Digging

It is critical to understand where underground utilities are located on a jobsite in order to avoid serious injuries.


Know what is below. Call before you dig.

  • Calling 811 is the most important step.

What is 811?

811 is the free, federally designated, phone number to call before any digging project. This is done to protect yourself and others from unintentionally hitting underground utility lines.

Do I need to call 811?

  • Yes. Any type of digging requires a call. In Washington State, you must call two days prior to digging and your call will be routed to your local one call center www.call811.com/Washington. Tell the operator where you are planning to dig.
  • Your affected local utility companies will be notified about your intent to dig and will send locators to your dig site to mark the approximate location of buried lines with flags or paint.

When can I begin my digging project?

  • Wait for the marks! Utilities will mark their buried lines on your dig site.
  • Most locate crews will arrive to mark your dig site with paint or flags within a few days and will make sure that you know where to avoid digging so you don’t hit buried utilities. Remember the depths of utility lines may vary and there may be multiple utility lines in the same area.

Digging Safety

You called before digging, waited for your lines to be marked, and now it is time to roll up your sleeves and get to work! Make sure to always dig carefully around the marks, not on them. Some utility lines may be buried at a shallow depth, and an unintended shovel thrust can bring you right back to square one----facing potentially dangerous and/or costly consequences. Do not forget that erosion or root structure growth may shift the locations of your utility lines, so remember to CALL AGAIN each time that you are planning a digging job.

Presenter tips

  • Pre-read the Toolbox Talk. Your comfort level and confidence will be higher if you know your topic.
  • Discuss related tasks, work areas or events that make the Toolbox Talk relevant to your job site.
  • Involve the workers by asking questions and input that drives discussion.

Questions for Discussion

  • What number must I call before any digging project?
  • What do the marks indicate?