Safe excavation checklists 2020-04-10T14:35:54+00:00

Safe excavation checklists

View these step-by-step guides online, or print and distribute to your crews and coworkers.

New York City/Long Island Safe Excavation Checklist (Printable PDF)

  • Step 1: State law requires you to call 811 or make an online request for utility locates at least two full working days before any excavation starts, excluding the date of your call, weekends and legal holidays. At no cost to you, New York 811 will notify member underground facility owners in the immediate area, so the location of buried lines can be marked prior to excavation. Allow more time for long, involved projects.

    • Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Nassau, Suffolk and the Rockaways: Call 811 or 1-800-272-4480 | newyork-811.com

  • Step 2: Notify facility owners who are not members of New York 811 of your excavation and request locates directly from them. New York 811 can provide a list of these owners.


  • Step 3: Before notifying 811, pre-mark your dig area with white paint, flags or stakes so locators can more easily identify and mark affected utilities. Document your markings with photos or video.


  • Step 4: Retain your ticket number and related documentation. Keep this proof of compliance handy at the job site in case of emergency.


  • Step 5: If digging in New York City and its five boroughs: The NYC Department of Buildings requires you to provide your 811 ticket number when making normal notification of the commencement of earthwork. The ticket must address all street frontages associated with the excavation, and all documents related to the notification must be kept onsite and available upon request. To complete the DOB earthwork notification, call 1-212-393-2550.


  • Step 6: If you will be working within 15 feet of a high-pressure natural gas transmission pipeline or other critical utility: Prior to digging, you are required to attend an onsite meeting and/or have contact with qualified National Grid representatives to help reduce the risk of excavation-related damage. National Grid MUST be onsite during the excavation.


  • Step 7: Expect a response from every facility operator, confirming the absence or presence of utility lines in your work area. Document the responses. If you do not get a response, do not dig; call 811.


  • Step 8: Check the site on your planned excavation date to confirm that your entire requested dig area has been located. Look for aboveground signs of utilities that have not been marked, such as meters, pipeline markers, valves, etc. Also check for signs of something buried after the locate was completed, such as a fresh trench. If you find unmarked facilities, do not begin work. Call 811.


  • Step 9: Begin excavation within 10 working days of your locate request. If your excavation will be delayed, contact 811 to request a re-mark.


  • Step 10: Maintain the marks. You are responsible for maintaining locate marks until your excavation is complete. Document marks with photos or video before you dig. If marks fade or are destroyed, call 811 to request a new ticket so the area can be located and marked again. Stop work until the relocates are done.


  • Step 11: Respect the tolerance zone. Do not use mechanical excavation equipment within the “tolerance zone,” which spans the width of a marked utility plus 24 inches from each indicated outside edge. For your safety, use ONLY hand tools or vacuum technology within this zone.


  • Step 12: Visually verify the location and depth of a marked utility line by carefully digging test holes with a blunt hand tool. When hand digging, approach from the side rather than the top, and do not use sharp probes. Be sure to find the actual facility, not just the tracer wire or warning tape.


  • Step 13: Locate marks may not be accurate. If you cannot visually verify the indicated line within the tolerance zone, stop work and notify 811 or the facility operator.


  • Step 14: If you encounter an unmarked line, stop digging and notify 811 or the facility operator. Never assume a line is abandoned. Always assume lines are in use and present a potential danger.


  • Step 15: If you scrape the coating on a gas pipe or cut a tracer wire, call National Grid and 811 immediately. Even apparently minor damage can cause the line to fail in the future or become unlocatable.


  • Step 16: Once a natural gas pipeline has been exposed, excavate around it with caution. Add support if necessary, using materials that will not damage the pipe or its coating. Backfill with care. Please consult National Grid for specific backfill rules.


  • Step 17: Use special care to protect cast-iron pipelines from damage. Notify National Grid whenever cast-iron gas pipe is exposed or falls within an excavation trench’s angle of repose.


  • Step 18: If you contact a natural gas pipeline and/or suspect a gas leak, assume there’s a danger – even if the damage appears minor. Warn others, leave the area quickly and stay away until utility personnel say it is safe to return. Do not use matches, lighters or anything electrical (even a phone), as a spark from these items could ignite the gas and cause an explosion. Leave the excavation open and do not attempt to stop the flow of gas. From a safe location, call 911 and National Grid. Also call 811 or 1-800-272-4480.



To report gas emergencies, call 911 and National Grid immediately.

Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island: 911 and 1-718-643-4050 
Nassau, Suffolk and the Rockaways: 911 and 1-800-490-0045

Upstate New York Safe Excavation Checklist (Printable PDF)

  • Step 1: State law requires you to call 811 or make an online request for utility locates at least two full working days before any excavation starts, excluding the date of your call, weekends and legal holidays. At no cost to you, Dig Safely New York will notify member underground facility owners in the immediate area, so the location of buried lines can be marked prior to excavation. Allow more time for long, involved projects.


  • Step 2: Notify facility owners who are not members of Dig Safely New York of your excavation and request locates directly from them. Dig Safely New York can provide a list of these owners.


  • Step 3: Before notifying 811, pre-mark your dig area with white paint, flags or stakes so locators can more easily identify and mark affected utilities. Document your markings with photos or video.


  • Step 4: Retain your ticket number and related documentation. Keep this proof of compliance handy at the job site in case of emergency.


  • Step 5: If you will be working within 15 feet of a high-pressure natural gas transmission pipeline or other critical utility: Prior to digging, you are required to attend an onsite meeting and/or have contact with qualified National Grid representatives to help reduce the risk of excavation-related damage. National Grid MUST be onsite during the excavation.


  • Step 6: Expect a response from every facility operator, confirming the absence or presence of utility lines in your work area. Document the responses. If you do not get a response, do not dig; call 811.


  • Step 7: Check the site on your planned excavation date to confirm that your entire requested dig area has been located. Look for aboveground signs of utilities that have not been marked, such as meters, pipeline markers, valves, pad-mounted transformers, etc. Also check for signs of something buried after the locate was completed, such as a fresh trench. If you find unmarked facilities, do not begin work. Call 811.


  • Step 8: Begin excavation within 10 working days of your locate request. If your excavation will be delayed, contact 811 to request a re-mark.


  • Step 9: Maintain the marks. You are responsible for maintaining locate marks until your excavation is complete. Document marks with photos or video before you dig. If marks fade or are destroyed, call 811 to request a new ticket so the area can be located and marked again. Stop work until the relocates are done.


  • Step 10: Respect the tolerance zone. Do not use mechanical excavation equipment within the “tolerance zone,” which spans the width of a marked utility plus 24 inches from each indicated outside edge. For your safety, use ONLY hand tools or vacuum technology within this zone.


  • Step 11: Visually verify the location and depth of a marked utility line by carefully digging test holes with a blunt hand tool. When hand digging, approach from the side rather than the top, and do not use sharp probes. Be sure to find the actual facility, not just the tracer wire or warning tape.


  • Step 12: Locate marks may not be accurate. If you cannot visually verify the indicated line within the tolerance zone, stop work and notify 811 or the facility operator.


  • Step 13: If you encounter an unmarked line, stop digging and notify 811 or the facility operator. Never assume a line is abandoned. Always assume lines are in use and present a potential danger.


  • Step 14: If you scrape the coating on a gas pipe or cut a tracer wire, call National Grid and 811 immediately. Even apparently minor damage can cause the line to fail in the future or become unlocatable.


  • Step 15: Once a natural gas pipeline has been exposed, excavate around it with caution. Add support if necessary, using materials that will not damage the pipe or its coating. Backfill with care. Please consult National Grid for specific backfill rules.


  • Step 16: Use special care to protect cast-iron pipelines from damage. Notify National Grid whenever cast-iron gas pipe is exposed or falls within an excavation trench’s angle of repose.


  • Step 17: If your equipment contacts a power line, notify National Grid and 911 immediately. Move the equipment away from the line if you can do so safely. If the equipment cannot be safely moved, stay put until National Grid utility workers signal you off. Warn others to stay far away; anyone who touches the equipment or even the ground nearby may be injured or killed.

    • If fire forces you off, jump clear without touching equipment and the ground at the same time. Land with your feet together and shuffle away with small steps. Once clear, do not return to the equipment until National Grid has declared it safe.

  • Step 18: If you contact a natural gas pipeline and/or suspect a gas leak, assume there’s a danger – even if the damage appears minor. Warn others, leave the area quickly and stay away until utility personnel say it is safe to return. Do not use matches, lighters or anything electrical (even a phone), as a spark from these items could ignite the gas and cause an explosion. Leave the excavation open and do not attempt to stop the flow of gas. From a safe location, call National Grid and 911.



To report emergencies, call 911 and National Grid immediately.

In case of gas emergencies:
Upstate New York: 911 and 1-800-892-2345

In case of electric emergencies:
Upstate New York: 911 and 1-800-867-5222

Massachusetts and Rhode Island Safe Excavation Checklist (Printable PDF)

  • Step 1: State law requires you to call 811 or make an online request for utility locates at least 72 hours before any excavation starts, excluding weekends and legal holidays. At no cost to you, Dig Safe® will notify member underground facility owners in the immediate area so the location of buried lines can be marked prior to excavation. Allow more time for long, involved projects.

    • Massachusetts: Call 811 or 1-888-DIG-SAFE (344-7233) | digsafe.com

    • Rhode Island: Call 811 or 1-888-DIG-SAFE (344-7233) | digsafe.com


  • Step 2: Notify facility owners who are not members of Dig Safe about your excavation and request locates directly from them. Dig Safe can provide a list of these owners.


  • Step 3: Before notifying 811, pre-mark your dig area with white paint, flags and/or stakes, so locators can more easily identify and mark affected utilities. Document your markings with photos or video.


  • Step 4: Retain your ticket number and related documentation. Keep this proof of compliance handy at the job site in case of emergency.


  • Step 5: If you will be working within 15 feet of a high-pressure natural gas transmission pipeline or other critical utility: Prior to digging, you are required to attend an onsite meeting and/or have contact with qualified National Grid representatives to help reduce the risk of excavation-related damage. National Grid MUST be onsite during the excavation.


  • Step 6: Check the site on your planned excavation date to confirm that your entire requested dig area has been located. Look for aboveground signs of utilities that have not been marked, such as meters, pipeline markers, valves, pad-mounted transformers, etc. Also check for signs of something buried after the locate was completed, such as a fresh trench. If you find unmarked facilities, do not begin work. Call 811.


  • Step 7: Begin excavation within 30 calendar days of your locate request, or your ticket will expire. Contact 811 if the excavation will be delayed.


  • Step 8: Maintain the marks. You are responsible for maintaining locate marks until your excavation is complete. Document marks with photos or video before you dig. If marks fade or are destroyed, call 811 to request a new ticket so the area can be located and marked again. Stop work until the relocates are done.


  • Step 9: Respect the tolerance zone. Do not use mechanical excavation equipment within the “tolerance zone,” which spans the width of a marked utility plus 18 inches from each indicated outside edge. For your safety, use ONLY hand tools within this zone.


  • Step 10: Visually verify the location and depth of a marked utility line by carefully digging test holes with a blunt hand tool. When hand digging, approach from the side rather than the top, and do not use sharp probes. Be sure to find the actual facility, not just the tracer wire or warning tape.


  • Step 11: Locate marks may not be accurate. If you cannot visually verify the indicated line within the tolerance zone, stop work and notify 811 or the facility operator.


  • Step 12: If you encounter an unmarked line, stop digging and notify 811 or the facility operator. Never assume a line is abandoned. Always assume lines are in use and present a potential danger.


  • Step 13: If you scrape the coating on a gas pipe or cut a tracer wire, call National Grid and 811 immediately. Even apparently minor damage can cause the line to fail in the future or become unlocatable.


  • Step 14: Once a natural gas pipeline has been exposed, excavate around it with caution. Add support if necessary, using materials that will not damage the pipe or its coating. Backfill with care. Please consult National Grid for specific backfill rules.


  • Step 15: Use special care to protect cast-iron pipelines from damage. Notify National Grid whenever cast-iron gas pipe is exposed or falls within an excavation trench’s angle of repose.


  • Step 16: If your equipment contacts a power line, notify 911 and National Grid immediately. Move the equipment away from the line if you can do so safely. If the equipment cannot be safely moved, stay put until National Grid utility workers signal you off. Warn others to stay far away; anyone who touches the equipment or even the ground nearby may be injured or killed.

    • If fire forces you off, jump clear without touching equipment and the ground at the same time. Land with your feet together and shuffle away with small steps. Once clear, do not return to the equipment until National Grid has declared it safe.

  • Step 17: If you contact a natural gas pipeline and/or suspect a gas leak, assume there’s a danger – even if the damage appears minor. Warn others, leave the area quickly, and stay away until utility personnel say it is safe to return. Do not use matches, lighters or anything electrical (even a phone), as a spark from these items could ignite the gas and cause an explosion. Leave the excavation open and do not attempt to stop the flow of gas. From a safe location, call 911 and National Grid immediately. Report the incident to your supervisor.



To report emergencies, call 911 and National Grid immediately.

In case of gas emergencies:
Massachusetts: 911 and 1-800-233-5325
Rhode Island: 911 and 1-800-640-1595

In case of electric emergencies:
Massachusetts: 911 and 1-800-465-1212
Rhode Island: 911 and 1-800-465-1212

Know what's below. 811 before you dig.
Safe Excavation Checklists