Safe DiggingAs the calendar turns from March to April, it’s important to think of safety as outdoor projects get under way in many parts of the country.

And as a member of the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), AEM actively supports National Safe Digging Month and asks its members to emphasize the importance of calling 811 before beginning any digging project – no exceptions.

“The message of safety is one we should never get complacent about. We need to wake up every day, 365 days a year, with a commitment to being safety conscious,” said AEM Technical and Safety Services Manager William "Bernie" Bernhard. “Safe machinery operation and job preparation saves lives, and all industry stakeholders contribute to the success of any utility excavation and/or installation.”

National Safe Digging Month serves to bring added awareness to the issue of underground line safety and reduce the risk of unnecessary infrastructure damage. Digging without knowing the approximate location of underground utilities can result in serious injuries, service disruptions and costly repairs when gas, electric, communications, water and sewer lines are damaged.

According to CGA, a recent national survey found that 42 percent of homeowners who plan to dig this year for projects like landscaping, installing a fence or mailbox, or building a deck, pond or patio and other DIY projects, will put themselves and their communities at risk by not calling 811 a few days beforehand to learn the approximate location of underground utilities.  

With that fact in mind, AEM encourages everyone planning a digging project to take the following steps:

  • Always call 811 a few days in advance of a digging project, no matter the depth or familiarity with the property.
  • Plan ahead and provide ample time for the approximate location of lines to be marked.
  • Confirm all lines have been marked with the one-call service, and look for evidence of any utilities that may have been missed, as well as ensure all underground utilities are located prior to excavating.
  • Strongly consider moving the location of the project if it’s near utility line markings.
  • Know the tolerance zone in the state where the project is taking place. Only soft excavation should be done in the tolerance zone.
  • If a contractor has been hired, confirm a call to 811 has been made, and don’t allow work to begin if lines haven’t been marked.

Each and every state offers its own 811 call center to help with digging efforts, and 811 representatives take information about impending projects and notify appropriate utility companies to mark buried lines so digging can safely occur around them.

AEM Supports Safe Digging

AEM is a proud supporter of CGA, and the association and its 900-plus members work diligently to promote 811 in a variety of different ways, including:

  • AEM Safety Manuals provide information on how to use “Call 811”
  • AEM member companies promote “Call 811” on their websites and through advertisement sliders and editorials
  • Manufacturers place “Call 811” signage on their equipment
  • Manufacturers post “811 Know What’s Below” stickers on their equipment
  • References and instructions to “Call 811” are printed in their equipment operator’s manuals
  • “Call 811” is mentioned in every safety video that involves breaking ground
  • “Call 811” is mentioned in safety toolbox talks
  • “Call 811” events are posted on social media outlets
  • Attend and present as industry experts at 811 events
  • Attend and present as industry stakeholders at CGA conferences
  • Participate in the CGA Best Practices committee
  • Use CGA’s website and marketing materials
  • Provide a free download from AEM’s pictorial database that any business, school or organization can use – free of charge

AEM and its members are committed to safety, and AEM assists manufacturers and the off-road equipment industry in fostering safety best practices through the association’s extensive array of safety manuals, videos and related training materials.

For more information, check out CGA’s National Safe Digging Month toolkit or contact AEM’s William “Bernie” Bernhard (, tel: 414-298-4106).