Soft Excavation to Expose FacilitiesDig Safely Home< BackNext >


Verify precise location and depth of utility.
If power equipment will be used within 48 inches of the facility marks, excavators must verify the precise location (including depth) of the utility line through hand exposing or other soft excavation means. Flags and locator marks indicate the approximate location and direction of the utility. 

The only way to be sure of the precise location and depth of utility is to carefully:

  • Use a blunt nosed shovel to loosen the soil.  Do not use a pickax or pointed spade and avoid stabbing at the soil or stomping on the shovel with both feet.  Work with a gentle prying action and dig at an angle so the shovel will slide along the surface of the utility. Or dig to a depth where you expect the utility to be, but off to the side, then use a prying motion to break away soil as you approach the utility laterally.
  • Note: Vacuum excavation is an acceptable method of soft excavation to expose marked facilities to determine precise location.


Use proper hand digging tools and techniques to safely verify the precise location and depth of any buried utilities you must cross or work near.