Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering

590 Woody Hayes Dr., Columbus, Ohio 43210

The Ohio Utilities Protection Law


Thomas L. Bean
Larry C. Brown

The Ohio Utilities Protection Law establishes procedures for planning and conducting excavations near underground utility facilities. The purpose of the law is to reduce damage to gas, water, oil, steam, telephone, cable television, and sewer lines. In addition, and perhaps more important, the law may help save the lives of those who unknowingly come in contact with dangerous utility facilities during excavation work. This fact sheet is provided to assist the public in understanding the law. Definitions necessary to enhance this understanding are referenced on the back.

Selected Provisions of the Law

Any landowner or developer1 who is planning a project that may require excavation2 is required to notify the Ohio Utilities Protection Service (OUPS) (1-800-362-2764) of the location of the proposed excavation site. OUPS then notifies the appropriate utilities of the developer's plans. The law requires utilities3 to provide information to the developer on locations and other pertinent facts about their underground utility facility. The utility must determine if relocation, support, removal, or special protective steps are required with respect to its underground utilities during excavation.

If the developer has plans drawn for the project, all of the information required by the utilities, including names, addresses and telephone numbers, must be affixed to the plans. Whether or not plans are prepared, the information provided by the landowner or developer to the utility must be given to the excavator.4 The excavator is required to contact the protective services and utilities within at least 48 hours but not more than 10 days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and state legal holidays) before excavation.

Each utility is required to notify the excavator that the utility has no facilities at the site or to mark the locations of their underground facilities in the area of the construction site within 48 hours (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and state legal holidays) of receiving notice of pending excavation from the protective service or excavator. The utility will mark the approximate location of its underground utility facility in specific colors based on the type of facility (Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Type of Underground Utility Facility Color
Electric power transmission and distribution Safety red
Gas and oil transmission and distribution lines, dangerous materials, product lines and steam lines High-visibility safety yellow
Telephone and telegraph systems, police an fire communications, cable television Safety-alert orange
Water system; slurry systems Safety-precaution blue
Sewer lines Safety green Safety Green
All proposed construction or excavation markings shall be in white.

Under the law, the excavator has several responsibilities:

  1. To maintain reasonable clearance between any underground utility and the cutting edge or point of powered equipment.

  2. To protect and preserve the markings of approximate locations of underground utility facilities until those markings are no longer required for proper and safe excavations.

  3. To notify the utility if the markings are destroyed or removed before excavation is completed, and the utility will remark the approximate locations within 48 hours of notice.

  4. To require an individual other than the equipment operator to look for any sign of the underground utility facility when powered equipment is used for excavation near underground utility facilities.

  5. To conduct the excavation in the vicinity of the underground utility facility in a careful and prudent manner, excavating by hand if necessary, to determine the precise location of the facility and to prevent damage.

  6. To report the type and location of any damages to the utility (such as gouges, dents, or breaks to coatings, cable sheathes, and cathodic protection anodes or wiring) and to permit the utility a reasonable amount of time to make necessary repairs.

  7. To report immediately to the utility and, if necessary, to the appropriate law enforcement agencies and fire departments any damage to an underground utility facility that results in escaping flammable, corrosive, explosive or toxic liquids or gas. The excavator also must take reasonable appropriate actions to protect persons and property and to minimize safety hazards until those agencies and departments and the utility arrive at the scene.


This fact sheet is provided to help promote public safety through understanding of a new Ohio state law and to prevent damage to underground utility facilities during excavations. There are a number of additional explanations and qualifications in the final version of the law. One provision of the law is currently being debated in the state legislature. The provision would eliminate the required participation in a one-call service by the utility and is to be effective Jan. 1, 1991.

To read the entire Ohio Utility Protection Law, see the Ohio Revised Code, Sections 3781.25 to 3781.32. For additional information or clarification, call the Ohio Utilities Protection Service at 1 -800-362-2764.


  1. "Developer" is the person for whom the excavation is made and who will own or be the lessee of any improvement that is the object of the excavation. Example: A farmer, who owns land upon which improvements will be made and who will continue to own the land after any improvements, contracts with a drainage contractor to install a subsurface drainage system. The farmer may be considered the developer.

  2. "Excavation" means the use of tools, powered equipment or explosives to move earth, rock or other materials in order to penetrate, bore or drill into the earth, or to demolish any structure whether or not the demolition is intended to disturb the earth. Excavation includes such agricultural operations as installing drain tile, but excludes agricultural operations such as plowing and tilling, which do not penetrate the earth to a depth of more than 12 inches. Excavation excludes any underground mining operations that do not disturb the earth's surface.

  3. "Utility" means any owner of an underground utility facility, including any public authority as defined in Section 153.64 of the Revised Code, who owns an underground utility facility, except the owners of the following real property with respect to any underground utility located on that property: the owner of a single-family or two-, three-, or four- unit residential dwelling; the owner of an apartment complex; the owner of a commercial or industrial building or complex of buildings, including but not limited to factories and shopping centers; the owner of a farm.

  4. "Excavator" means the contractor or other person who is responsible for making the excavation. Examples include: 1) A company that has contracted with a homeowner to install an underground irrigation system; 2) A landscape developer engaged to dig holes and plant trees; and 3) A backhoe operator hired to dig domestic or livestock waste treatment systems.

All educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, age, disability or Vietnam-era veteran status.

Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.

TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-6181

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