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Construction Risk Insights – Dial Before You Dig

Smart, safe digging means knowing what underground services are buried before you begin a project. Underground services can include pipelines, cables, wires and other equipment used by water, gas, electricity and telecommunications service providers. Anyone involved in digging should ‘dial before they dig’. In other words, they should contact utility companies and service providers to find out what underground services are below or near their worksite, and plan their dig accordingly.

Know the Facts

Many liability policies contain exclusions for damage to underground services if you have not made reasonable efforts to check for and locate them. It is not enough to simply ask the landowner, or make an educated guess.

Many builders and other workers believe they can tell whether there is anything buried underground based on above ground conditions. In reality, many underground services are not marked as precisely as workers believe. Above ground markers are not usually placed exactly over the item and may not indicate depth. Underground lines often curve to avoid natural or manmade features between markers. Dialling before you dig and getting accurate records is the only way to truly know what is beneath the ground before you break the earth.

Who Should You Call?

There are many free and pay services that you can call to find out where underground services are located at your worksite. A few common ones are listed below:

  • BT/Openreach for certain telecommunications underground services—call them at 0800 917 3993 or visit
  • Energy Networks Association for gas and electricity companies. Visit them at
  • National One Call is an all-inclusive pay service, but there is a free SelfPlan option. Call 0844 800 9957 or visit

Best Practices

Use these tips to ensure best practices before you dig:

  • Obtain all relevant utility plans
  • Ensure plans include all relevant services
  • Use and maintain the correct locating devices
  • Clearly mark all identified services
  • Communicate these locations to all contractors on site who may be involved in digging

Even small jobs require a call, so never take on a project without dialling before you dig. In case of an incident, make sure your claim is not refused because you did not properly check for underground services. Contact Sirelark Risk Services to make sure that you are covered properly.

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The content of this publication is of general interest and is not intended to apply to specific circumstances or jurisdiction. It does not purport to be a comprehensive analysis of all matters relevant to its subject matter. The content should not, therefore, be regarded as constituting legal advice and not be relied upon as such. In relation to any particular problem which they may have, readers are advised to seek specific advice from their own legal counsel. Further, the law may have changed since first publication and the reader is cautioned accordingly. © 2012-2013 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

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