Unitil Tips of the Trade
Safe Hand-Digging Practices

Call 811 Before You Dig

Unitil Contact Info:

MA Gas: 888-301-7700
ME Gas: 866-933-3821
NH Gas: 866-933-3820

MA Electric:
NH Capital Electric:
NH Seacoast Electric:

Review these tips with coworkers at your tailgate or tool box meetings before work begins to help avoid potential hazards when working near overhead and underground power lines.

You’ve notified 811, and all buried utility lines on your job site
have been located and marked. Now your power-digging work can begin, right?

Not so fast. In Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire, before you can use power-digging equipment to cross a marked utility line or excavate within 18 inches of either indicated outside edge of the line, you must hand dig to verify the line’s exact location and depth.

Dig with Care
Protect utility lines from damage and protect yourself from injury with these hand-digging tips:

contractor survey
  • Use a rounded or blunt-edged shovel. Sharp tools like pickaxes, mattocks, pry bars, or pointed spades may gouge or puncture lines.
  • Start your digging off to the side of the marked utility line. Use a gentle, prying motion to break away soil as you approach the utility laterally.
  • Never pry against a utility line to remove soil, and never stab at the soil or stomp on the shovel with both feet.

Prevent Muscle Strain and Injury
Always wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Don’t twist your torso to move the dirt; move your feet to turn your entire body. Alternate shoveling between your left and right sides. Take care to prevent muscle strain, and take breaks to prevent fatigue.

Report ALL Damage
Even a slight gouge, scrape, or dent to a utility conduit or its coating may cause a break or leak in the future. Protect all exposed utility lines and check them regularly for damage. Before you backfill, check them again. Report any damage to Unitil so our crews can inspect the line and make the necessary repairs.

Would You Like to Know More?
Additional digging and overhead guidelines, emergency procedures, case studies, instructional videos, and training tools can all be found at no charge to you on Unitil's e-SMARTworkers website.

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