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Spring is here, and with it comes the busy excavation season! That’s why April is National Safe Digging Month (NSDM), an entire month dedicated to educating the public about excavation safety. During NSDM, the underground damage prevention industry focuses on reminding the public about the important role they play in protecting the complex underground network of pipelines, wires, and cables buried beneath our feet.

There are over 20 million miles of underground utilities in the U.S. (according to Common Ground Alliance statistics). With the official start of spring, homeowners and professional excavators alike are eager to begin their outdoor excavating projects. GSOC would like to inform all excavators that:

  1. Before you contact GSOC, outline your proposed excavation area with white paint or flags. By doing so, you will decrease your chances of delayed locates and potential errors. When the utility companies mark their lines, you will have the peace of mind of knowing whether or not your spring project plan conflicts with the location of buried lines. If there is still snow on the ground, an excavator can use colored paint, flags, or stakes in different colors not specified in the APWA Color Code as an alternative to pre-marking with white. Remember to indicate the use of alternate colored markings on your locate request.
  2.  File a locate request online or call GSOC at least 48 hours in advance, not including weekends or holidays, before excavating. Always check the accuracy and completeness of your description. Make sure to include the specific type of excavating you are doing on your request.
  3. You may contact GSOC up to 14 calendar days in advance of your project start date. Your ticket will remain valid for 14 calendar days after the stated start time. After that time passes, you must contact GSOC to update your ticket and get lines remarked.
  4. Private facilities are NOT marked when you contact GSOC. While Chapter 216D requires operators of lines buried in the public right-of-way to register with GSOC, customer-owned lines (such as gas lines to a hot tub or grill) are the owner’s responsibility. Protect yourself and invest some time to determine if there are private utility lines buried in the area of excavation. If so, you may have to contact a PRIVATE LOCATOR to get them marked. 
  5. Always check the status of the underground utility markings before beginning work to make sure all affected facility operators have responded. It’s easy! Just visit our website and click on the green “Search and Status” button on the home page.
  6. Respect the marks. Do your best to maintain the paint lines and flags left by locators. Stop excavating and contact GSOC if you can no longer see the marks because they are obscured or destroyed by job site traffic, weather, or other interferences.
  7. Be mindful of the tolerance zone during excavation. Hand dig two feet from both sides of the marked utility. See the graphic below for a visual representation.
    Tolerance zone graphic
  8. Use the proper excavating tools and techniques. Examples include choosing shovels with durable fiberglass handles and keeping the shovel head perpendicular to the ground when excavating.
  9. Feel free to contact us with any questions, suggestions, or input you may have!
    GSOC customer support phone number: (651) 681-7326
    GSOC customer support email: customersupport@gopherstateonecall.org

With these tips in mind, you are set for a successful spring excavating season. As always, stay safe and contact GSOC before you excavate. Happy NSDM!

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