Article by April Harvey

In California, anyone planning to excavate or dig must first give notice via a service called Dig Alert. Notice may be provided by contacting Dig Alert simply by dialing 8-1-1. California legal requirements for both excavators and pipeline operators (as well as operators of other subsurface utilities) are set forth in California’s Government Code sections 4216.1-11. 

A detailed overview of the requirements can be found at

  1. Excavators must first mark the location of the planned excavation. They must then give at least two business days’ notice (not including the day of the notice) to the operators – commonly referred to as a “dig ticket.”
  2. Absent an emergency, the excavator MAY NOT perform the excavation until it has received a response (call or physical marking) from each party identified on the dig ticket.
  3. Further, prior to performing the excavation the excavator must schedule and conduct an onsite meeting with any operator of a “high priority subsurface installation” within 10 feet of the planned excavation. High priority subsurface installations are defined to include high-pressure natural gas pipelines, petroleum pipelines, pressurized sewage pipelines, high-voltage electric supply lines, conductors, or cables, and hazardous materials pipelines.
  4. In order to avoid risks to workers and the environment, excavators should err on the side of caution when deciding whether a potential operator merits an onsite meeting. The dig ticket is only good for 28 days.

Contractors and employees performing excavation activities are often underinformed and poorly trained on the requirements associated with Dig Alert. 

Too frequently they will begin field activities with little or no knowledge about whether a dig ticket has been issued and whether all operators have responded. This results in accidents and injuries that are easily preventable with adequate training and proper precautions. 

Further, such training is mandatory – Cal OSHA requires that all such employees be properly trained in Dig Alert procedures. See, Title 8 California Code of Regulations section 1541.