Apr 7, 2020
Excavators: Use the Dig Safely Hotline

April is designated as national Dig Safely Month, and Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. reminds anyone planning to dig to first call 811, the toll-free Dig Safely hotline, so that underground utility lines and equipment can be marked and properly identified prior to the start of excavation. The service is provided at no cost to the caller.

“Homeowners tackling backyard projects and contractors undertaking current or future construction jobs are reminded to first call 811 so that underground lines are marked out, as prevention is the best way to avoid serious consequences associated with contacting or damaging underground utility lines,” said Charles A. Freni, President and CEO of Central Hudson. “During this time, many major construction projects may be postponed or suspended in support of social distancing, however it is important anytime to call before you dig,” he said. “Calling the toll-free Dig Safely hotline is the law, and damaging underground systems is costly, detrimental to those whose services are interrupted and potentially hazardous to the excavator and public.”

Freni said that before digging, even by hand on a resident’s own property, call 811 at least two to 10 days before any excavation takes place to ensure underground lines are located and marked. This toll-free national calling service connects excavators to their regional One-Call center that alerts utilities, municipalities and other parties of the intention to excavate at specific sites so that the lines can be properly marked. There is no charge for the service, and utility crews will locate and mark lines at no cost to the caller.

Due to circumstances caused by the current pandemic, minor delays may occur in marking out lines. However, no work may be performed until all municipal and utility providers have responded by either marking the lines or indicating that the area is clear.

Once the lines are marked, workers must stay clear of the “tolerance zone,” which is an area two feet to either side of marked lines where mechanized equipment cannot be used until the underground facility is uncovered by hand digging. If contact with underground facilities occurs, the excavator must contact the utility immediately, whether or not the lines are damaged. Excavators must also understand the type of the underground facilities at their work location, for example whether natural gas, electric, telephone, water or other lines are present.

When working near utility underground or overhead lines, excavators and construction crews are always encouraged to contact Central Hudson to review plans and discuss ways in which to work safely. Other recommended steps include:

  • Establishing a communications plan with workers to inform them of the location and potential hazards of utility lines in the area;
  • Creating a boundary around areas to be avoided, including guy wires, service lines, gas and electric meters, pad-mounted transformers and other facilities by using cones or tape;
  • Keeping a safe distance from overhead utility facilities, at least 10 feet from local power lines and 25 feet or more from high-voltage transmission lines. Workers should carry ladders, pipes and other long objects horizontally rather than vertically and should wear appropriate safety gear.
  • If contact is made with gas or electric utility lines, call 911 and never attempt to make any repairs or adjustments to utility facilities.
  • If a gas odor is detected, remember to ‘Stop. Go. Let Us Know’ by ceasing all activities, evacuating all workers and others from the immediate vicinity and calling 911 and Central Hudson’s Gas Odor Response hotline at 1-800-942-8274 to report the odor.


Freni explained that the regulations are designed to protect excavators, the public and owners of underground lines. “A moment of inattentiveness can result in injury, damage or worse,” he said.

Dig Safely New York has developed a comprehensive Excavator Certification Program in Best Practices for Safe Digging.  Completion of this course will satisfy New York state legislation that requires contractors and excavation personnel employed by a municipality or natural gas operator to complete a training and education program.

Additional information about the Dig Safely New York One-Call system and requirements for excavating near marked lines is available at www.DigSafelyNewYork.com; information on the 811 service is available at www.call811.com; click here to see a video by the American Gas Association on natural gas safety for children; and to learn more about contractor safety and working near utility lines, call Central Hudson at (845) 452-2700 or 1-800-527-2714, or visit https://www.cenhud.com/my-energy/safety/dig-safely/