Stay safe when digging in your yard or other property

As the weather warms and spring finally seems to be coming to Ohio, many of us are dusting off our shovels and tools and starting to plan our landscaping to-do lists.

During this time each year, we choose to engage in popular projects such as planting a tree, building a fence, or even installing a swimming pool. With this in mind, I would like to remind everyone of the importance of digging in a safe, responsible way in recognition of April being National Safe Digging month.

When the time comes to dig, home and land owners alike need to take the time to prepare for projects properly and not guess where buried utility lines run through their property. These assumptions can prove costly if a buried utility line is struck, leading to utility outages, damage, fines and repair costs, and in some cases, injury or death. By simply calling the Ohio Utilities Protection Service (OUPS) at 8-1-1, Ohioans can have the utility lines running through their property marked for no cost, taking the guesswork out of digging.

By Ohio law, any homeowner, contractor or excavator must dial 8-1-1 at least 48 hours in advance but no more than 10 working days ahead of digging to have the utility lines marked. The law requires this call for any job, regardless of the depth of work planned. Once OUPS has been provided basic information about the dig, such as address, cross streets and the extent of the work planned, it is then relayed to the local utility serving the area. The utility is required to survey the property and mark any lines within 48 hours of notification, excluding weekends and state holidays.

Once the lines are marked, it is still important to work in a safe manner. If a utility line is struck, immediately move everyone away from the scene. Do not use any electronics that may create a spark, such as a cellphone, and do not try to repair any leak. If substances are discharged into the air, such as natural gas, dial 9-1-1 to inform the local emergency services of the leak. For other damages, immediately contact 8-1-1 and the local utility whose telephone number will be located on the nearest line marker.

Damage to utility lines from excavation activities continues to be a leading cause of utility disruptions. Fortunately, we can work together to reduce the risks associated with digging. During this spring, be sure to dial 8-1-1 every time a dig is planned, no matter how large or small a project may seem. With this simple call, we can prevent power, water and gas outages and keep our families and communities safe from utility line hazards.

As we kick off our spring projects, proper preparation when digging is just one aspect to be mindful of. The right planning and practice will ensure all our spring projects are safe projects.

Todd A. Snitchler is chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.