Dig safely and prevent utility dig-ins

Utility contacts can be costly—and deadly. Underground utility contacts cost utility owners and contractors millions of dollars in repair and service disruption costs every year. Not only that, workers who contact buried utilities put themselves and the public at risk of injury or death. It’s your responsibility to dig safely to protect yourself, your crew, and the public.

Contact MISS DIG 811 (by calling 811 or by going to www.missdig811.org) at least three full working days before you dig.
They will arrange to have underground power lines, gas lines and other utilities marked so you can dig safely. Be sure to leave adequate time in your job schedule.

Make sure your excavation site is clearly described on your staking request.
White lining or staking the dig site can help locators identify and mark affected utilities.

You can also initiate MISSDIG811 staking requests for simple projects online at elocate.missdig811.org.
Excavators with complex projects may apply to use the MISSDIG811 remote ticket entry (RTE) tool at rte.missdig811.org.


Worker with jackhammer


Know what's below. 811 before you dig.

Contact MISS DIG 811 at least three working days before digging, so underground utilities can be marked and you can dig safely.

To work safely, confirm all underground facilities have been marked before you dig by checking the MISS DIG Positive Response system.
Using your MISS DIG ticket number, go to response.missdig811.org or call back into 811.

Verify that the Positive Response information matches marks/staking at your excavation site.

If you will be using power equipment within 48 inches of the marks/staking, carefully expose the underground facility with hand tools or other soft excavation.

In the following circumstances, do not dig, and contact MISS DIG 811 to request “additional assistance.”

  • If the location of a marked facility within the approximate location cannot be determined.
  • If the excavator has the reason to suspect the presence of an unmarked facility due to any 1 of the following:
      • Visible evidence of a facility with no marks visible
      • Lack of positive response to a ticket
      • A positive response from a facility owner or facility operator indicating the presence of a facility with no marks visible


Know what's below. 811 before you dig.

Make sure you check the Positive Response System after your underground utilities have been marked to verify the expected marks are still visible. If they are not, contact MISS DIG 811.

Utility locator markings protect you.
Make sure you and your crew know how to read utility locator markings and know the Michigan Utility Color Code for marking underground utilities. Color code charts are usually available from MISS DIG 811.

Michigan’s Utility Color Code
Red Electric
Yellow Gas & Oil
Orange Communications
Blue Water Systems
Purple Reclaimed Water, Irrigation and Slurry Lines
Green Sewer and Drain Lines
Pink Surveying

Utility locator markings protect you from injury and prevent damage to underground utilities. Make sure you and your crew know how to read them.

Locator marks

Yellow markers with the Consumers Energy logo and our emergency phone number indicate the general location of our high-pressure natural gas transmission pipelines.
These markers call for extra care. They are usually found at road, railroad and waterway crossings, and at regular intervals across rural areas.

Pipeline markers may not show the exact location of the line, its depth or the direction it follows.
If you will be digging near a pipeline marker, rely on marks from pipeline owner in response to MISS DIG staking request to indicate location of the pipeline.

Call us to report suspicious activity.
If you notice any suspicious activity near a pipeline marker, or if you see construction occurring near a marker with no utility personnel present, call us to report the issue at 800-477-5050.

Maps can also be viewed to identify the approximate location of major natural gas pipelines.
To view these maps, visit the National Pipeline Mapping System website: www.npms.phmsa.dot.gov.

pipeline markersPipeline markers and maps indicate only the general location of gas transmission pipelines. Never use them as a substitute for contacting MISS DIG 811 at 811 to have utility lines located and marked.

The Caution Zone means the area within 4 feet (48 inches) of either side of the utility marks.   


Before blasting or excavating in a caution zone, an excavator shall expose all marked utilities in the caution zone by soft excavation. If conditions make complete exposure of the utility impractical, an excavator shall consult with the utility owner or utility operator to reach agreement on how to protect the utility. For excavations in a caution zone parallel to a utility, an excavator shall use soft excavation at intervals as often as reasonably necessary to establish the precise location of the utility. An excavator may use power tools and power equipment in a caution zone only after the utilities are exposed, the precise location of the utilities are established, and no visible evidence of unmarked utilities exist.

  • If you are unable to determine the precise location of the marked facility within the approximate location, you must contact the facility owner through MISS DIG 811 again and the utility will provide additional assistance as needed.

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.

hand digging


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.

811 eng e1528216704379Contact MISS DIG 811.
If you are planning to use directional drilling, contact MISS DIG 811 at least three full days before you plan to begin work. Let them know you will be using boring technology.

Boring is a form of excavation and you must follow the MISS DIG rules when boring within the Caution Zone, to include hand exposing to verify the precise location of the marked facility. Refer to requirements described in Check Marks Before Digging and Caution Zone.

Calibrate the bore head and locating device at the start of each job.
Remember, the locating device can monitor the bore head on the initial pass, but may not be able to monitor the backream head.

Know what's below. 811 before you dig.A natural gas leak may result in a fire and/or explosion.
Asphyxiation could also result because natural gas can displace oxygen in confined spaces.

Consumers Energy adds a distinctive, sulfur-like or “rotten egg” odor to natural gas to assist in the detection of leaks.
However, in certain conditions you may not be able to smell this odorant. Additionally, natural gas in major transmission lines usually does not have odorant added.

Don’t rely on your nose alone.
Use your senses of sight, hearing and smell to detect a gas leak. Here are the signs:

  • “Rotten egg” smell from distribution lines
  • Blowing or hissing sound
  • Dead or discolored vegetation in an otherwise green area
  • Dirt or dust blowing from a hole in the ground
  • Bubbling in wet or flooded areas
  • Flames, if a leak has ignited





Remember the three R’s of natural gas safety (Recognize, React and Report). If you RECOGNIZE any signs of a gas leak, REACT by immediately leaving the area. When you are at a safe place, REPORT the leak by calling 911 and Consumers Energy at 800-477-5050 any time, day or night.

If your equipment makes contact with a Consumers Energy pipeline, electric, or other line, stop your excavation. Call us immediately at 800-477-5050, even if there is no apparent damage.
This includes nicks, dents, gouges, cuts, scrapes or scratches to the underground facility or its coating. Even a minor nick or scrape could cause future corrosion and/or a failure of the underground facility, resulting in a major health and fire hazard.

Follow these precautions:

  • Do not attempt to repair damaged gas or electric lines.
  • Do not cover the damaged facility with dirt. Trying to cover up an accident can be dangerous, and can lead to costly damages or criminal charges against you and your company.
  • Do not crimp plastic gas facilities.
  • Do not attempt to plug damaged pipes. Allow the gas to vent into the atmosphere.

DO NOT assume that damage occurs only at the contact point.
An underground facility that is pulled or bumped could break some distance away from the contact point.

Report any and all underground facility contacts to Consumers Energy immediately.

contact dig

Learn the warning signs of a gas pipeline leak:

  • A distinctive, sulfur-like odor
  • A hissing or roaring sound
  • Dirt spraying or blowing into the air
  • Continual bubbling in water
  • Grass/plants dead or dying for no apparent reason

If you are operating digging equipment that contacts a power line, take these steps:

  • Move the equipment away from the line if you can do so safely.
  • Tell others to stay away. Anyone on the ground who touches the equipment may be injured or killed.
  • Stay on the equipment until utility workers signal you off.
  • Have someone call 911 and Consumers Energy at 800-477-5050 immediately.
  • Never touch fallen power lines or anything they may be in contact with. Always stay at least 25 feet away and call 911 and Consumers Energy.

If fire or other danger forces you off, jump clear, keeping both feet together and without touching the ground and the equipment at the same time. Shuffle away with small steps, keeping your feet close together and on the ground. Or, hop away on two feet, keeping both feet together.


Review your emergency plan before work begins, so everyone knows what to do in case of power line contact.

Take immediate action to minimize hazards during natural gas emergencies:

  • Warn others and leave the area immediately. Keep everyone away from the damage and upwind until utility workers say it is safe to return.
  • DO NOT use any matches, lighters or electrical devices that could ignite the gas.
  • Move your machine away from the damage if you can do so safely, without risking the ignition of any leaking gas. DO NOT start an engine or motor that may already be “off.”
  • If the machine’s motor stalls, DO NOT attempt to restart it. If you can do so safely, turn off the motor to prevent possible ignition of any gas, and abandon the equipment.
  • Leave the excavation open and allow the gas to vent into the atmosphere.
  • If natural gas ignites, let it burn. Burning gas will not explode.
  • From a safe location, call 911 and Consumers Energy at 800-477-5050 immediately and report the incident to your supervisor.

minimize hazards

Review your emergency plan before work begins, so everyone knows what to do in case of natural gas pipeline contact.

  • If you have damaged a gas line and you know (or even just suspect) that leaking gas is entering or blowing into a building, by law you must take immediate action:
    • Evacuate the occupants immediately and leave the doors open.
    • Notify Consumers Energy at 800-477-5050 and call 911.
    • Tell people they must not return to the building for any reason until safety officials say it is safe.
    • DO NOT operate light switches, doorbells or use telephones in the building.
    • PROHIBIT smoking in the area and the operation of machinery.
    • Keep people away from the leak area until safety officials say it is safe to return.

leaking gas

Your prompt action during a gas leak may save lives or prevent serious injury or property damage. DO NOT leave a potentially hazardous situation to chance.

Sewer backups may be caused by utility lines that intersect sewer lines. These intersecting lines are known as “cross bores.”


A plumber who attempts to clear this type of blockage may damage the utility line that was bored through the sewer line. If an electric line is cut, the plumber is at risk for electrocution. If a gas line is damaged, gas can migrate through the sewer line into homes and buildings, which could result in a major fire or explosion.

If your work involves cleaning out a sewer line that is blocked between the house and sewer main, take these precautions:

  • Contact MISS DIG 811 by calling 811 or by going to www.missdig811.org. Request an emergency staking request due to sewer blockage in order to have utility lines located and marked that might cross the path of the sewer line.
  • Use a camera to identify the location of the blockage. If the evidence of recent excavation or utility marks are the same distance from the building as the blockage, a cross bore may be the cause.
  • If you suspect or determine the blockage is caused by a cross bore, do not attempt to clear the blockage. Instead, get help from the utility owner that may be involved.

Cross bores occur when an excavator unknowingly bores a utility line through a sewer lateral.

Contractor hand digging