What Should You Do if You Hit a Gas Main While Digging?

There are always potential obstacles under the ground, and you run the risk of doing serious damage if you bring in an excavator without proper planning. Having some idea what to do if something like a gas main is hit is a smart course of action.

Prevention

It can’t be stressed enough that you should take thorough steps before any digging begins to avoid this problem. If you are going to be doing any significant digging with machinery on your property, it is vital you contact the local utilities to ensure there is no risk. A professional service avoidance inspection can make this simpler by doing a single inspection to check for multiple utility obstacles.

While doing damage to a water or sewer pipe can be a disaster, breaking a gas line is a much more dangerous situation.

Identification

Are you sure that it’s a gas main? It may not be that easy to tell, especially if only a small portion of the pipe is exposed as you dig. They can be made from plastic, steel or copper so you probably won’t be able to tell just by the material. A water pipe would obviously be leaking water if actually damaged, so if the pipe is cracked with no visible leakage, there is a good chance it’s gas. If the pipe doesn’t seem to be damaged, you may have very little to go on and should take the following precautions. Gas can leak out even if the pipe looks intact.

Evacuate

If you hit a gas pipe when digging, your first step should always be to evacuate the area even if you aren’t positive that a leak has been created. Try to stay at least 100 feet away from the potential leak, and even farther is you start to smell gas.

Avoid Sparks or Flames

Once everyone is out of the area, you should ensure that no machinery is running and that no one uses matches or a lighter. This would also include flashlights or any other sort of electrical light. Even if you can’t smell any gas (yet), there is a flammable risk with any open flame or spark.

Call It In

Hopefully, you have the emergency gas main phone number handy and can call in the damage immediately. Trying to avoid potential trouble with the utility company shouldn’t deter you from making the call. This is a dangerous situation and you must let the professionals handle it. They will likely repeat the same steps as above, and give any further instructions on how to handle the problem.

When any underground pipe, wire or cable is damaged during digging, you should always take the situation seriously. Even if it looks like some old unused phone cable, you should call the utility and verify what you’re dealing with. If you do nothing and further damage results from your actions, you could be liable.

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