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Guide About Dig Safe

In this guide, you'll find out important information about Dig Safe, including when you should call Dig Safe, how to report a Dig Safe violation, and other helpful tips. Planning to dig? Call Dig Safe at 811 or (888) 344-7233 to make sure you avoid damaging utility lines.

What is Dig Safe?

Whether you’re a homeowner working on a do-it-yourself project or a professional, you’ll want to make sure that you avoid damaging underground utility lines when you dig. Before you start your project, get in touch with Dig Safe, a nonprofit organization that will notify your utility company about your project for free. Then your utility company will help you plan a safe dig. You can contact Dig Safe by calling 811 or (888) 344-7233.

When you call Dig Safe, you will be asked to describe the specific location where you will be excavating. If your excavation project expands outside of that location, you must call Dig Safe again. Excavating outside of the area you described when you called and premarked is a violation of the law.

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When should I call Dig Safe?

You must contact Dig Safe at least 72 business hours in advance of when you plan to excavate. Do not count Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays.

The law requires that you call Dig Safe any time you're going to perform an excavation.  An excavation is simply movement or removal of earth, rock, or materials in the ground. In Massachusetts, the Dig Safe Law defines excavation very broadly and includes grading, backfilling, and demolition.

An excavation is NOT:

  • using hand tools for gardening purposes
  • blasting for quarrying purposes.

When you call Dig Safe and receive a ticket, Dig Safe will give you the time you can start.  Do not begin excavating until that start time.  If you don't begin your excavation project within 30 days of calling Dig Safe, your Dig Safe ticket expires and you need to call again for a new ticket.

If you have a contractor working for you, it is the contractor's responsibility to have a valid Dig Safe ticket. You may call Dig Safe on behalf of the contractor, but you do not have to do so.

When in doubt, call Dig Safe at 811 or (888) 344-7233.

What does premark mean?

Premark means to mark the area where you plan to dig with white paint or stakes.  Before any excavation - even on private property -  you need to premark your excavation area and then call Dig Safe at 811 or (888) 344-7233.  This is required by the Dig Safe Law before you call Dig Safe.

Who has to mark out their lines?

A utility company must mark its underground facilities by the time your Dig Safe number becomes valid. Failure to do so is a violation of the Dig Safe law. If a utility company does not mark on time, you should report this by submitting a Dig Safe Violation Report to the DPU.

Utility companies do not have to mark out facilities on private property if they do not own those lines.  For example, electric companies may not mark electric lines on your private property if they don't own or maintain those lines. Furthermore, municipal water and sewer companies are not required to join Dig Safe, so they may not mark underground facilities on your property. You may hire a private locator to mark lines such lines, but you have no obligation under the Dig Safe law to do so.

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How should I dig when I am close to the markings?

Utility companies will mark their underground facilities with paint or flags in the area you identified to Dig Safe. You must hand dig near those markings to avoid damaging underground facilities.

Be careful! Some underground facilities may be shallow. Shallow depth of an underground facility is not an excuse for violating the Dig Safe law.

If the markings are inaccurate (i.e., off by more than 18 inches), you should call the utility company and submit a Dig Safe Violation Report. Do not continue to excavate until the problem is corrected. You should also contact Dig Safe for a re-mark.

What should I do if the markings become faded or obliterated?

Over time, underground facility markings become faded, worn, and difficult to see. The marks should be refreshed as often as necessary to keep them clearly visible. If the marks become faded, you should either call Dig Safe at 811 or (888) 344-7233 for a re-mark or refresh the marks yourself by applying new paint to the existing marks. Utilities must re-mark their facilities within 24 hours.

How can I get a copy of my Dig Safe ticket?

Call Dig Safe at 811 or (888) 344-7233 to request a copy of your Dig Safe ticket.  You can also visit the Dig Safe website for more information.  

What if I hit an underground utility line?

Call 911 immediately if damage to a natural gas pipeline results in the release of gas.  Then notify the utility of the damage.

For any other damageyou must immediately notify the utility company that is affected, even if the damage is minimal.

What if I don't follow the Dig Safe law?

If you fail to call Dig Safe, or violate any other provision of the Dig Safe Law, the Department of Public Utilities may investigate and issue a civil penalty against you. Civil penalties are $1,000 for a first offense, and between $5,000 and $10,000 for any later offense within 12 consecutive months.

Remember that you could be found in violation of the Dig Safe Law if you:

  • fail to provide a proper initial notice to Dig Safe, Inc. prior to commencing the excavation, as required by the Dig Safe Law, G.L. c. 82, section 40A;
  • fail to premark the excavation location, as required by the Dig Safe Law, G.L. c. 82, section 40A;
  • fail to wait 72 hours prior to commencing the excavation or fail to commence the excavation within 30 days of the notification, as required by the Dig Safe Law, G.L. c. 82, section 40A;
  • fail to have your name included on the Dig Safe ticket as the excavator, as required by the Dig Safe Law, G.L. c. 82, section 40A;
  • perform the excavation using an Emergency Dig Safe ticket where the safety of the public is not in imminent danger, such as a threat to life or health, in violation of the Dig Safe Law, G.L. c. 82, section 40A;
  • fail to maintain the designation marking of underground facilities or fail to request remarking at the location due to the obliteration, destruction, or other removal of such markings, and fail to employ reasonable precautions to avoid damage to the underground facilities, as required by the Dig Safe Law, G.L. c. 82, section 40C;
  • fail to perform the excavation using non-mechanical means or fail to employ reasonable precautions when excavating in close proximity to the underground facilities within the located safety zone, causing damage to the underground facility, in violation of the Dig Safe Law, G.L. c. 82, section 40C;
  • fail to notify the operator of the underground facility that damage occurred, as required by the Dig Safe Law, G.L. c. 82, section 40C.

In addition, a utility company may violate the Dig Safe Law if it does not mark the underground facilities timely and adequately in response to a Dig Safe notification.

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