June 16, 2024
Utility Markers

The Essential Use of Utility Markers for Infrastructure Safety

Purpose of Utility Markers

Utility markers play a vital role in identifying the location of underground utility lines to prevent accidental damage during excavation or construction work. The purpose of these markers is to communicate the type of utility underground and the depth at which it is buried to contractors and other workers who may be digging in the area. Proper marking helps ensure underground electric lines, water mains, gas lines and other utilities remain intact and safe.

Common Types of Locators

There are a few standard types of locators used throughout the construction industry. The most common include:

Steel stakes or posts – These long, thin stakes are driven into the ground at regular intervals near a buried utility line. They are often yellow, orange or red in color and come in various heights depending on ground cover and visibility needs. Steel stakes last a long time and hold up well in all weather conditions.

Concrete/PVC markers – Similar to steel stakes but made of rigid plastic or concrete, these locators provide visibility without the hazard of a sharp point. They are durable like steel but safer for mowing and foot traffic areas.

Painted markings – Yellow or orange spray paint is used to mark proposed excavation areas as well as the location and depth of existing underground Utility Markers. Paint is a low-cost option but must be reapplied regularly due to wear from weathering.

Signs/flags – Durable plastic signs or flags with utility identification information are another popular choice, especially near roadways. They remain highly visible from a distance for easy reference.

Non-metallic tracer wire – Buried alongside some plastic utility lines, this thin copper wire allows for underground detection with a locating device for greater accuracy.

Proper Identification is Required

According to the Uniform Color Code established by the American Public Works Association, specific colors are assigned to each type of utility to simplify identification:

– Yellow = Gas, Oil, Petroleum or Gaseous Materials

– Orange = Communications, Alarm or Signal Lines

– Blue = Potable Water

– Green = Sewer and Drain Lines

– Purple = Reclaimed Water, Irrigation and Slurry Lines

– Pink = Temporary Survey Markings

– Red = Electric Power Lines, Cables, Conduit and Lighting Cables

Proper identification is important as accidental strikes to any underground utility can disrupt service, damage expensive infrastructure and endanger public safety. Penalties may also apply for code violations on a job site. Only qualified professionals should determine utility locations.

Guidelines for Proper Marking Practices

Standard industry guidelines ensure utility markings remain clear and effective:

– Marks should be placed directly above and parallel to the facility at regular intervals along its route.

– When changes in direction occur, marks are placed at the point of curvature (PC), point of tangency (PT) and points in between no more than 25 feet apart.

– Depth of burial should be noted accurately in inches or feet below grade.

– Indicate if multiple lines are present in the same trench by labeling A, B, C, etc.

– Note the width of the utility zone on either side of the centerline if space permits.

– Markers should be maintained and clearly visible at all times, especially during and after construction projects.

– Contact the local one-call center and requesting utility owners/operators for guidance on local marking practices and requirements.

Following established marking protocols ensures clear communication between underground facility owners and contractors working in the vicinity. It reduces hazards and helps avoid unintended disturbances that could disrupt services.

One-Call Systems Facilitate Coordination

In many areas, statewide one-call systems coordinated by agencies like Miss Utility or 811 streamline the utility location process. Contractors are required to notify the one-call center a few days prior to any excavation. Member utility owners are then alerted to mark underground lines on a specific property.

One-call participation is mandatory in most jurisdictions with penalties for non-compliance. It allows all affected utilities to be aware of planned work and respond accordingly. Contractors get a quick, coordinated response to clearance requests through a centralized notification process. Utilities benefit from advanced notice to avoid emergency repairs from unintended contact during excavations.

Proper utility marking is essential for infrastructure and public safety. Standard color-coding and spacing protocols help communicate the location and nature of buried lines clearly. Participation in one-call systems provides an efficient means of coordinating utility responses prior to ground-breaking work. Following established industry best practices ensures underground facilities remain properly marked and protected throughout construction projects. Effective utility markers play a key role in minimizing accidental excavation damage risks

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it