Safely Exposing Buried Utilities
You’ve called 811, you’ve waited at least three full business days, and you’re sure all buried utility lines on your job site have been located and marked. Now you can use your mechanized equipment to begin excavating, right?

Not so fast. Buried power lines and other facilities can be easily damaged and are dangerous to contact. Before you can safely cross or work close to an underground utility line with power digging equipment, you must see the line with your own eyes:
Workers hand digging trench
  • First, use only hand tools like shovels or other non-intrusive methods to expose the line. State law requires you to hand expose within the “tolerance zone,” a safety area that spans the width of a marked utility, plus 18 inches from each indicated outside edge.
  • Then, and only then, can you begin power digging. Be sure to work with a spotter whose only job is to keep mechanized digging equipment away from buried facilities.
  • If your excavation encroaches within the tolerance zone, contact Duquesne Light and we’ll send a representative out to your job site.
Hand Dig with Care
Take care to prevent damage by using a rounded or blunt-edged shovel—and be sure you use a fiberglass shovel when digging around buried electrical lines. 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 line laterally. Never pry against a utility line to remove soil, stab at the soil or stomp on the shovel with both feet.
Report ALL Damage
Even a slight gouge, scrape or dent to a utility line conduit or its coating may interrupt service or cause a hazard. Protect all exposed utility lines and check them regularly for damage. Before you backfill, check them again. If you contact an underground power line, report it to Duquesne Light so our crews can inspect the line and make the necessary repairs.
Would You Like to Know More?
Additional overhead and digging guidelines, case studies, instructional video and training tools can be found, at no charge to you, on Duquesne Light’s e-SMARTworkers website.
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Know what's below. Call before you dig.
For emergencies,
call 911 and
Duquesne Light at
888-393-7000 or

Contact Duquesne Light at 412-393-7100 for
power line assistance or questions.
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