What Kind of Marker Should I Use?

A pipeline marker is a simple thing, and they come in lots of shapes and sizes. The purpose of a permanent marker is to create awareness of the presence and approximate location of your buried facilities. An important job considering:

  • There were over 44,000 damages where there was no call for a locate.
  • There were 22,000 damages where a one-call was made, but locate marks were not visible.

A professional excavator will always do a site survey before digging. Even a weekend warrior with a rented backhoe will think twice about digging without a locate if the facility operator employs an effective permanent marking system. Step one is selecting the right tool for the right situation.

When choosing your marker consider these factors:

Population Density

In rural areas, well placed markers of any style are tolerated. In suburban subdivisions homeowners, associations and retail locations may be resistant to some styles of markers. Most people just don’t want a tall brightly colored marker in the middle of their front yard. In cities where there is concrete from building to building, upright posts or free standing signs just aren’t practical. Consider the population density of the area to be marked when choosing your marker.


  • In agricultural areas with tall growing crops like corn, sorghums, and sugar cane, consider the height of your markers. Even tall growing grasses in a ditch can obscure the visibility of the warning marker.
  • A white sign becomes nearly invisible when the ground is covered in snow. Consider the color of environment if you want your message to be visible.
  • Harsh climates like the Arizona desert can be tough on permanent markers. The constant pounding of UV radiation can obliterate your warning message if you choose the wrong materials or manufacturer.
  • Consistently windy areas are a tough place for signs installed with any hardware. Wind fatigue can cause signs to rattle me eventually fall of their posts.
  • It can be next to impossible to dig a hole in rocky or extremely hard packed soils. Choosing a marker that can be driven into hard ground or affixed to U-Channel post will ease installation.


The safety of your buried facility, of your ROW, and of the environment must be considered when choosing your marker.

  • Markers must be visible from 360 degrees to be effective. The safety of your buried pipeline or cable just might depend on a potential excavator seeing your marker.
  • Markers that may be impacted should be made to rebound. A marker that lying down flat on the ground isn’t doing its job. ATVs, snowmobiles, vehicles, or even farm equipment may impact your markers. Additionally, metal posts can be a safety hazard on the ROW.
  • Standard fiberglass posts can degrade relatively quickly when exposed to  harsh sunlight. As the resins degrade, the fiberglass migrates the surface causing “fiberbloom.” The now fuzzy looking posts are a safety hazard to any person or animal that may touch them.

Permanent markers are an integral part of your public awareness, damage prevention, and operations & maintenance programs no matter what type of buried facility you are protecting. Make sure you consider all relevant factors when choosing.

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