Here’s to a Safe Digging Season

Pick up the phone or locator, and make sure you and your crews are avoiding the utilities.

As many of you know, April was National Safe Digging Month. It’s meant to bring awareness to the importance of locating utility lines before digging.

Why should this be saved for only one month? It should be on our minds every day, all year. It isn’t though. I often see stories about waterlines being struck and utility lines cut because the contractor didn’t know where the utilities were in the first place.  

Even the basic 811 and One Call services throughout the U.S. and Canada are better than going in blind and potentially putting you and your crews at risk.


One Call services are often required in many states, but some contractors are now taking it a step further and hiring private utility locating companies to conduct more in-depth locates.

One of those companies that is getting additional calls is Global GPR Services, profiled in this issue. The Ontario-based company was founded in 2007 by Steve Watson, who actually sold ground-penetrating radar units before realizing contractors were wanting the locates done rather than buying the units themselves.

Watson says he is satisfied whenever he finds a gas line or utility line before a trenching contractor digs into it with catastrophic results. However, he gets frustrated when his discoveries are ignored.

“Unfortunately, some contractors believe they know more than we do and go ahead and dig or pull up or cut a utility,” Watson says. “They don’t respect our findings. One contractor told me after cutting into a line that he just didn’t believe it was where we said it was. He believed his drawings instead. The drawings were wrong.”

Then there are the excavation companies that only call for the company’s services after an accident has happened.


According to the Common Ground Alliance’s 2016 DIRT report, there were 317,869 utility damages reported in the U.S. and Canada in 2016. Those don’t count the records that were input as “unknown” or “did not collect” in the field being analyzed.

Of those damages, 149,274 were caused by contractors who should’ve known there were utilities where they were digging. Backhoes and trenching operations accounted for 57,823 of those strikes, while 18,592 were by drilling operations.

Many of these situations could have been avoided with better utility locating methods. We won’t know the number of utility strikes in 2017 until about midyear. Let’s hope it’s lower than the 2016 number.


It’s time for you to look at your options and see what would work best — getting your own locating equipment or hiring private utility locators. Make sure you are thinking of digging safe every day you are on that job.

I’d like to know how you’ve made your company safer when it comes to utility locating. Email me at or call 800-257-7222.

Enjoy this issue!


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