Ontivity Resources

Underground Utilities

New Braunfels, TX, May 1, 2024

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The ground that we walk, drive and play on every day covers an incredible amount of buried utilities. In fact, there are more than twenty million miles of underground utilities in the Unites States. An underground utility line is damaged once every six minutes nationwide because someone decided to dig without first calling 811 or their local area locate number. Digging without knowing the approximate location of underground utilities can result in damage to gas, electric, communication, water and sewer lines. These damages can also result in service disruptions, costly repairs, and serious injuries. Just last week there was an event were an individual struck a buried electrical line with a non-insulated tool narrowly avoiding a serious injury that we later discovered was lacking the proper locates. Making a call to your local dig test or 811 is the easiest way to make sure you keep yourself and our communities safe and connected. Today we would like to discuss three safety reminders when it comes to underground utilities…

  1. Never excavate without calling for a dig test at least forty-eight hours in advance
  2. Always take photos of all locate marks and flags before breaking ground
  3. Only use non-conductive tools while potholing or hand digging


We all know that our #1 core value is safety. When it comes to excavation safety, our 1st step must be to initiate the dig test process prior to any excavation. Make sure that you give them the exact location or route and depth of the proposed excavation by marking the area with white paint. Dig test generally requires a minimum of forty-eight hours advance notice prior to any excavation. However, when possible, give them more lead time and always remember that the locate is only valid for 14-days. While on site, we should always maintain copies of all email correspondence and ticket requests. Doing so will aid in the dispute of any potential back charges for repairs in the event of a “not at-fault” utility strike. In some cases, you may need to call for a private locate to verify that all utilities have been located. This is especially important in densely populated areas.


There have been many instances where a utility strike has taken place of an unmarked line and a short time later, an individual shows up on site and starts to mark the line that was just struck and then later claims that the line was marked. That is why we must take good photos of the locates before breaking ground. For many customers, they require copies of all the dig test paperwork and photos of the locates to be included as part of the close out package as well. If you arrive on site and there are not any locate marks present, you should verify that the dig ticket has been cleared by all known utilities and then proceed with capturing all necessary photos. Remember that a photo is worth a thousand words. In this case, the potential for injury or cost of an outage just isn’t worth it.


The marks or flags only show the approximate location of underground utilities and can help prevent a utility strike. If you must dig within 18”-24” of the locate marks, or what we call the tolerance zone, hand dig with non-conductive tools or use a vac truck to expose the utility. Notice we stated to use non-conductive tools. This is because there is a chance that the person digging could come into contact with an energized line and the use of a non-conductive tool helps ensure that the individual won’t be shocked or electrocuted. Given the example we talked about at the beginning of the call, you can see why this is a big deal because the tool being used was a conductive non-insulated tool.

If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at safety@ontivity.com, and we will get you taken care of. 

1820 Watson Lane East, New Braunfels, Texas 78130, United States

(830) 302-2330

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