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​Always have utility lines marked before you dig

Whether you are planning to dig post holes for a new fence, plant some trees or make repairs to the foundation of your home, find out where the underground utilities are before you start digging. Hitting underground utilities is a safety hazard and can be costly to repair. Knowing where they are will help you plan how to dig safely near them or know what areas of your yard to avoid.

Our safety experts have provided the following information so you know where you can dig safely and where you need to dig with extra care.

Why utility locating is important

Learn more

Dig safely near underground utilities

Dig safe

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What to do if you hit an underground powerline

Know the steps

Don't dig near transformers or power poles

Learn why

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  Why utility locating is important

We respond to incidents every year where homeowners or their contractors have contacted underground power lines. Hitting an underground utility line, like power or natural gas, is dangerous. It can even be fatal. If a utility line is damaged you will likely experience an outage to your service and repairs can be time consuming and expensive.

 

Did you know?

Red paint and flags are used to mark power lines, yellow marks natural gas lines, blue marks water lines, and green marks sewer lines.

Learn what all of the different
utility locate colours mean

  Dig safely near underground utilities

Homeowners often ask how deep they can dig without getting utility locates?

Our answer is always the same - for any project, get locates before you start digging. As weather conditions and temperatures change the ground settles and expands. This settling and expanding can also change the depth and location of the utility lines going to your home. If you need to dig within one metre of marked underground power lines, ensure you or your contractor is taking every safety precaution to do it safely.

How to safely dig near underground power lines

Use a shovel, not mechanical equipment: When digging within one metre of a power line, the safest tool to use is a shovel with a curved blade. Do not use any mechanical tool. For example, never use a power auger to dig fence posts within one metre of the underground power line locate marks.   

Expose the line: We recommend exposing the power line first. The ground could have shifted and moved the line slightly off from where the markings are. Once the power line is exposed you can see where they are and avoid hitting them when placing your fence posts or trees.

Tips for digging safely near utility lines

  • Position the shovel blade so that it's parallel to the line made by the paint and flags.
  • Dig with your shovel at an angle and not straight down. This angle lowers the chance of damaging the cable if you accidentally make contact.
  • Dig slowly and with care. The more carefully you dig, the less risk of damaging the cable.
  • Use a prying motion to loosen hard dirt near the power line. Don't use your full body weight on the shovel. Never strike or jump on the shovel.
  • Be careful not to damage the power line with your shovel as it can put you at risk of injury or death. It could also cause a cable fault and power outage that is costly to repair.
 

How to excavate near utilities in your yard

If you are excavating around your home's foundation, trenching, or digging for any other reason, you must call before you dig and get utility locates.

The same guidelines above apply for utilities near your excavation site. Do not use mechanical equipment within 1 metre of underground power lines.

If you have hired a contractor, ensure they have the utilities located and marked. Make sure that they are following guidelines for digging near utilities defined in the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Code and the Alberta Electrical Utility Code.

 

  What to do if you hit an underground powerline

If you've hit a power line or think you might have:

  1. Stop digging immediately. Move at least 10 metres away from the area.
  2. If someone is hurt, ask them to move from the area and immediately call 911. If the person cannot move by themself, do not try to move them. If the ground is energized, you can be injured too.
  3. If no one is hurt, call our Power Emergency line at (780) 412-4500. Report even minor damage to EPCOR. We will do an assessment and determine if repairs are needed. Even minor contact or damage could cause a power outage to your home in the future.

  Don't dig near transformers or power poles

Never install landscaping or plant within two metres of a transformer – the green or grey boxes on or near your property – this is a no dig zone. The two-metre clearance will ensure you don't hit any of the underground power lines or grounding wires buried near the transformer. It will also provide our crews with the required room to work safely when servicing the transformer.

Do not dig within a metre of a power pole. If you need to dig in this area, contact our Power Emergency line at 780-412-4500. Our safety Codes officers can  instruct you about how to do so safely.

Learn more about the clearance and no dig zones  near EPCOR power equipment.  

 

Click or call before you dig   

Utility locating is a free service.

Click before you dig or call Utility Safety Partners at 1 (800) 242-3447 to find out where the utility lines are located in your yard. The service will mark the location of power, water, drainage, natural gas, internet, and cable television lines on your property with coloured paint and flags. This service can take up to a week after you make the call.

 


Disclaimer

This webpage provides information regarding safe work practices in relation to EPCOR power facilities. Employers and contractors have responsibilities under the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (Alberta OHS) Act, Code, and Regulation. When there is a conflict between this document and any bylaws, legislation, or regulation, the relevant law prevails. Any reliance placed on this information is strictly at your own risk. EPCOR does not assume any responsibility or liability for any action, loss or damage that arises out of, or is in connection with the information contained in this webpage.