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811's Call Before You Dig - RCW 19.122

Getting signs installed is paramount for your company.  Giving your clients high visibility, keeping your listings recognizable, and ensuring a timely close are (no doubt) at the forefront of your mind.  Likewise, our team at SSNW wants to ensure you that we are on top of the latest techniques, laws, and ordinances, to keep your sign installations timely and professional.

You may have recently heard about the "811 Call Before You Dig" law which will begin affecting the sign industry in a very short period of time.  The "Call Before You Dig" law (RCW 19.122) has begun to take effect with sign installation companies as well as real estate companies across Washington.  We want to educate you of the changes that this law requires;

Previously, our sign installations have been under an exemption which did not require locates for excavations of less than 12" (as performed by the property owner or agent thereof, at residential properties).  Our team has worked carefully to ensure that we did not violate this law, and we have been attentive to the confines of this exemption.  In recent months, however, there has been a push by proponents of a new interpretation of this law.  They have the ability and authority to impose significant fines and damages to violators, and as an effort to avoid the costly legal battle to combat these changes, our team at SSNW has made the decision to adjust our processes to adhere to these changes.

While we work through this adjustment period, there are some key changes that are important to emphasize, as they will directly affect new installation orders;

Effective 5 PM on Monday, March 20th, all sign installations will be subject to the 811 underground utility locate law.  This means that

SSNW, unfortunately, may no longer offer next day installation.  The 811 locate system requires two (2) business days to locate underground utilities.  Initially, all installations must be scheduled a minimum of three (3) working days ahead of time (this schedule may be subject to change as developments occur).  Additionally, the sign installation location must be marked with a white flag or white spray paint prior to contacting 811.  Sign Solutions will offer this as a paid service, however, we would recommend that the real estate agent/broker or homeowner do this themselves, to save both time and expense.

Here is how services will work (following the effective date):

  1. To expedite the process, you (or your homeowner) may place a white flag or you may spray a white X at the location of the installation.
  2. You may place your installation request via our website.  On our website you will notice an additional section where we ask if your location is marked, if you have a locate ticket number, or if you would like us to schedule a locate.
  3. For orders received by 4 PM (that already have a locate marked), Sign Solutions will call and request a locate from 811 (or schedule the installation if you have already received a locate ticket number).  If you have not marked the location we will send an installer out on the next available day (depending on location) and mark it for a fee.
  4. Once we have a confirmation of the 811 locate, we will install your post on the next scheduled date of service.

We understand that there will be an adjustment period as our industry works to comply with this new law.  We will do everything within our power to minimize delays and accommodate for changes.  We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience as we complete this transition.  Our team is also working to determine several alternative options so that we are again able to offer next day services.  As we complete these options, we will keep you informed.  We encourage you to share this page with any agents you know, as this is an industry-wide adjustment, and we wish to keep all affected parties informed.


Below is an excerpt from the Legal Hotline regarding the dig law:

Q: Are sign companies or real estate brokers subject to the ""call before you dig"" statute when digging a post hole for a yard sign? If a sign company or broker provides the sign to the owner and the owner puts it in the ground does the broker still have liability regarding the Dig Law?

A: Yes. The "Call Before You Dig" law requires a person who intends to dig or excavate to call "811" 48 hours prior to digging so that any underground utilities may be marked and thus, avoided, during the digging. While it may seem unlikely for a post hole digger to contact, much less damage, an underground utility, it can and does happen. As a result, even the simple act of digging a single post hole is subject to the state law that requires calling "811" before the hole is dug.

The definition of "excavation" subject to the statute is: "any operation in which earth, rock, or other material on or below the ground is moved or otherwise displaced by any means . . ." RCW 19.122.020(4). Any person who engages in an "excavation" is subject to the statute. There is an exception for the owner of non-commercial property who digs no more than 12 inches deep but the exception does not apply to agents of the property owner. RCW 19.122.060. Moreover, it is the understanding of the Hotline lawyer that most post holes for yard signs typically exceed 12 inches in depth.

If a person digging fails to comply with the statute and an underground utility is damaged, the person digging is liable for repair of the damage and a civil penalty of up to $10,000 depending on the nature of the utility that is damaged.

This is not a new statute but legislation in 2011 created enhanced enforcement and dispute resolution procedures through the State Utilities and Transportation Commission. Accordingly, when intending to dig a post hole for a yard sign, it is imperative to call "811" and schedule a utility locate at least 48 hours prior to digging the post hole. If a yard sign is required prior to utilities being marked, a smaller, temporary sign should be used, that does not require digging.

Because the post hole required for most real estate yard signs is more than 12 inches, the "owner" exception will not protect property owners who dig their own post holes. If the owner has a problem, it is unlikely that the owner will absorb the liability willingly if owner figures out that broker gave owner the sign to post so that broker could avoid the responsibilities of the Dig Law.

Call Before You Dig - Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission

Why should I call before I dig?

Because so many utility lines for gas, power and telephone are buried underground, every project that requires digging must have the underground lines located and marked to prevent damage to these utilities. If you do not make the call before starting work, you may be liable for damage you cause.

What is the Law?

The “Call Before You Dig” law, RCW 19.122, requires anyone digging more than twelve (12) inches into the ground to call and have underground utilities located at least three business days before they dig.

How do I request a locate?

You can have the underground utilities located, for FREE, with one quick call to the Utilities Underground Location Center. Simply dial 811 or  800-424-5555 or visit www.callbeforeyoudig.com. This one call will alert the utility companies in your area to come and mark their lines for you.

What information do I need when I call?

You will be asked for the address where the work is taking place; a description of the work being done; the area where the utility lines need to be located; the township section and range if known; and the date work will be taking place.

What happens after I call?

During your call, you will be given a tracking number for your locate request. Keep this number. The call center will identify the utility companies that could have lines impacted by your work. You will also be notified if the utility lines will not be marked within two days of the date you said your work would begin.

What if I have a problem getting my utilities located?

If you have any problems getting your utilities located - if the locate doesn't happen, is late, inadequate or inaccurate - please call the commission toll free at 800-562-6150.