Rules for Safe Digging – Call 811

As warmer weather approaches springtime in Wisconsin and you get an itch to start outdoor projects, make sure you are thinking ahead before putting your shovel in the ground.

If you’re putting up a fence, installing a mailbox or tilling a garden… call 811 first. Chad Krueger with Diggers Hotline shares steps you must take before using that post hole digger.

Remember: Anytime you’re disrupting the soil, the first step is to contact Diggers Hotline.

What’s the risk?

Vital services that we use every day are in the ground: natural gas, electricity and internet. If you hit a line, you may damage those vital services in your community or inflict injury upon yourself. Gas lines can be in farm fields, and hitting a pipeline can lead to a tragic explosion.

Each underground line, pipe or wire is installed at a different level based on different regulations. This does not guarantee those utilities have been installed at the right location. Also, note that erosion could have added or taken away from the depth over time.

What are the consequences of hitting a line?

  1. Safety: This is the largest consequence because injuring yourself or another person is something money can’t solve. An injury can result in a tragic event.
  2. Financial: Repair costs can add up fast. Utility companies can charge for materials and labor, and emergency medical services can also charge if they come out to an accident.
  3. Legal: The state law requires you to call 811 before disrupting the soil.

What does Diggers Hotline service look like?

Contacting Diggers Hotline by calling 811 or by visiting is a free service. To file a request, you’ll need to provide:

  • Your contact information
  • Dig site location by address, city, side of street and intersection
  • Dig site information by start date, work type, equipment and marking instructions

After contacting Diggers Hotline, allow three business days for affected utilities to come out and mark the lines – the average is seven utilities per project.

If you are unable to maintain the flags/paint, you can call Diggers Hotline again to re-mark the area. If you can’t avoid digging near the marks, within 18 inches, consider moving your project. No mechanized equipment can be used within 18 inches of the marks, only hand digging is allowed.

What if I still hit a line?

Krueger says it’s rare, but it does happen. A utility may mismark a line. If you encounter a line, call the utility that owns the line and if necessary, call emergency services.

Rural Mutual has been protecting families and children in our farming communities for over 85 years. Learn more about our farm safety initiatives or contact a local agent.