Why I call 811

Find out why one excavator is a firm believer in calling before you dig

By Larry Byrd, Owner, B & L Pole Line Construction

EDITOR’S NOTE: In Canada and the United States, one-call notification is required two to three business days (five days in Ontario) before any excavation project. This important step is simple, fast and free, and can be done by visiting clickbeforeyoudig.com in Canada and by calling 811 in the U.S. Pipeline operators and other utility companies will locate and mark underground lines so you can work safely near them.

August 11 is 811 Day in the United States — a day set aside by various government organizations and the underground utility industry to promote this critical step in protecting you and those around you when digging. Read below to find why one excavator, Larry Byrd of B & L Pole Line Construction in Weatherford, Texas, calls 811.

B & L Pole Line Construction has been in my family for three generations. At the end of the day, I’m responsible for the safety of more than two dozen employees who dig near Enbridge pipelines and other utilities, and for my company’s bottom line.

I’m a firm believer in calling 811 before digging, and the reason is simple. Striking a pipeline disrupts my job.

Not only is there a risk of injury, but there’s the possibility of downtime — filling out paperwork, dealing with insurance and waiting for the line to be inspected and repaired before you can finish the work. It’s a lot easier to avoid all of that by spending a little more time in calling 811 and having the lines marked.

Depending on state laws, one calls are required 2-3 business days before digging, so I always plan ahead. It’s easier to spend a little more time on the one call than to deal with a headache later — even if you don’t hit a line, you could trench for two days in one direction just to find a pipeline is blocking your way and that all your work was for naught.

Before starting our work, we’ll generally meet with utility company representatives onsite. I go over the scope of work I’m proposing and see what suggestions they have, like potholing or hand-digging around the utility. Whether the line below us is carrying water, high-pressure natural gas or crude oil, we don’t want to dig into it.

Some underground utility companies, such as Enbridge, have safety policies that require a representative to be onsite if we’ll be digging near their lines. We’ve made it a rule that if you’re going to be digging near a buried pipeline, you can dig as long as a representative from the pipeline company is standing there. I also like to have that representative double-check the markings, especially in areas where there are multiple lines buried.

Calling 811 before digging is not only what you’re supposed to do, but it is well worth the time it takes. Whether it’s helping you avoid injuries, delays, fines or insurance rate hikes, making the call will save you a lot of headache in the end. Always remember to call before you dig.