Loss Control - Excavation Damage


Excavation Damage Mitigation

One of the leading causes of disruption to underground utilities is damage due to excavation work. Every year thousands of hits to buried utility lines occur resulting in serious personal injuries, operational downtime and substantial legal and financial costs. According to the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), over the past 20 years utility hits have resulted in $1.7 billion in property damage, 1,906 injuries, and 421 deaths. All parties involved in the underground utility business, One-Call-Centers, utility owners and excavators, share responsibility for minimizing utility strikes. Businesses conducting underground utility work or performing any type of excavation can minimize damage to buried utilities by implementing basic damage prevention procedures.

Taking steps during the initial planning stages of an excavation project can save time, money and lives. Predesign and pre-construction meetings to discuss project scope and collect key  information including underground facilities will aid in preventing future incidents. A number of state laws require the designer to notify facility owners upon completion of final designs. Establishing communications and a working relationship with utility owners is extremely beneficial to ensuring accurate locates and mitigating any future damage.

Pre-marking is a technique of communicating where you intend to dig and is a highly recommended practice. Pre-marking, commonly referred to as white-lining, is done using white markings and is performed prior to contacting the one-call. When feasible, initiate the practice of meeting with the locators. Review and clarify excavation plans and locations. This process will help ensure locates are consistent with your plans.

Initiate procedures to document each jobsite through all stages of production. Documentation should include an accurate diagram of the worksite identifying streets, buildings and any other structures, utility locates and permanent locate markers. The diagram should be to scale. Photographs of the site should be taken prior to commencement of work, at the time locates are made, beginning of excavation, uncovering any utility line, work progress, backfilling, and final restoration. Additionally, photos of the actual locate personnel and vehicle tags may be beneficial. Ensure all photos are time stamped. Records should be maintained for an appropriate period of time as designated by your legal counsel.

In the event of a utility strike, you should have immediate action procedures for your field staff to follow. Review those procedures with your staff on a periodic basis throughout the year. Contact your insurance agent or carrier's claim department as soon as possible. It is important to remember the person dealing with the claim will probably never be on the site, or by the time they are, the conditions will have changed. Conducting a thorough damage investigation provides valuable information for insurance adjusters and if necessary, legal counsel. A good investigation and documentation preserves jobsite conditions and details.

Management should perform a post incident review with the excavation crew and supervision. Review and evaluate relevant aspects of the incident, determine root causes that contributed to the incident, and discuss corrective actions that will serve to minimize the possibility of reoccurrences. Your Westfield risk control and claims representatives can assist in this process.


We encourage you to evaluate the status of your company's risk management programs and policies and make enhancements where needed. Your efforts will go a long way towards minimizing your company's exposure to utility strikes and excavation damage and help control insurance costs.

Important excavation facts:
Forty-eight states have One-Call legislation. Most state statutes indicate:

  • The excavator is responsible for requesting locates and tickets.
  • The excavator is responsible for any damage to buried facilities.
  • Locate tickets are valid for 30 calendar days starting the day after the ticket is requested.
  • After 30 days, if excavation has not commenced a new ticket is required.
  • One-Call centers are NOT responsible for notifying facility owners that are NOT One-Call members.
  • 29CFR1926.651 (b) (1) requires that the estimated location of utility installations - that may reasonably be expected to be encountered during excavation work shall be determined prior to opening an excavation.
  • 29CFR1926.651(b)(2) requires utility companies will be notified within customary response times, advised of work, and asked to establish location of utilities prior to start of work. If they cannot respond to request within 24 hours the employer may proceed provided detection equipment or other acceptable means of locating utility installations
    are used. (pot-holing or hand digging)
  • Most state statutes require waiting two full business days prior to beginning to excavate.
  • 29CFR1926.651(b)(3) When excavation operations approach the estimated location of underground installations, the exact location of the installation shall be determined by safe and acceptable means.(hand digging)

Important excavation damage procedures:

  • Take immediate actions to address injuries to personnel or public. Bring site to a safe status.
  • Document information such as time, location of cut, relevant measurements, who made cut, and witnesses.
  • Include crew members, utility personnel, capture vehicles and license tag numbers.
  • Take pictures from multiple vantage points around the damage site and note on your jobsite diagram.
  • At each vantage point, start away from the point of damage to provide an overview of the area.
  • Take pictures moving towards the damage. Take at least three pictures from each location.
  • Use measuring devices in all pictures.

What can you do to mitigate utility strikes and excavation damage?

  • Obtain a copy of and familiarize yourself with your state's One-Call statutes.
  • Conduct pre-design and pre-planning meetings to identify underground facilities.
  • Perform white-lining and conduct meetings with locate personnel.
  • Perform hand-digging or pot holing when appropriate.
  • Implement a Damage Mitigation program, train field supervisors on documentation and immediate actions.
  • Perform thorough incident investigations to determine root cause and corrective actions.

*This information is intended as a guideline to be used in conjunction with other risk control resources. It does not represent legal advice and does not amend the terms, conditions or coverage of your insurance policy. This information has been obtained from resources believed to be reliable, but Westfield Insurance cannot guarantee its reliability and does not assume liability for the information or suggestions presented.

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