811 Day

Nearly two in five U.S. homeowners will put themselves and others at risk at some point this year by engaging in a project involving digging without calling 811 beforehand.   

As a proud member of the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), AEM supports 811 Day and asks its 1,000-plus members to spread awareness of the need to call 811 before taking part in digging projects – such as gardening, building a fence or deck, or installing a mailbox – without exception. 

“By understanding the 811 process and other necessary steps needed to ensure damages to underground utility infrastructure are prevented, not only are we keeping essential utilities from interruption, such as water, natural gas, and Internet service, we are also helping to mitigate any type of safety risk with striking an underground line that we cannot visually see,” said AEM Vice President, Construction & Utility Sector John Somers. “In recognizing today, we reaffirm our commitment to supporting safe digging and encouraging others to do so as well, today and the other 364 days each year.” 

CGA recently conducted a survey of nearly 2,000 active diggers throughout the United States. Of those surveyed, 88% have personally engaged in an underground digging project, and 59% have had a professional conduct a digging project in the past 12 months. However, only 67% of active diggers say they’ve contacted 811, or someone else in their household of business has contacted 811. In addition, only 38% of active differs say they notify 811 all of the time.  

These statistics reflect how important it is to raise awareness around underground line safety, and to reduce the risk of unnecessary infrastructure damage. 

With that 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. The exact distance that defines this area varies from state to state, along with the tools used to safely and effectively expose a buried facility. 
  • 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 works 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 
  • AEM uses CGA’s website and marketing materials 

One Call First“Safety is a value AEM lives by, and it’s something we take personally and truly own,” said Jaime Vos, director of AEM’s Safety Materials Program, which offers an extensive array of safety manuals, videos and related training materials. “We encourage our members and the industry-at-large to do the same by supporting 811 Day by promoting safe digging and championing a culture of safety within their organizations and beyond.” 

A variety of AEM Safety Manuals include an introductory chapter on safe digging, including the Hydraulic Excavator, Compact Excavator, Trencher, Vacuum Excavator and Backhoe Loader. 

For more information on 811 Day, check out the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), or contact AEM’s John Somers at jsomers@aem.org. For more information on AEM Safety Materials Program, contact AEM’s Jaime Vos at jvos@aem.org. 

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