Every year thousands of buried wires, cables, pipelines, water mains, and sewer lines are damaged in Canada by uncontrolled excavation. In most cases, these damages result in an interruption in service but sometimes they lead to injury, death and/or environmental contamination. Even if no one is harmed, each time a buried facility is struck it strains public resources such as emergency response personnel and/or results in economic costs, such as construction delays, repairs and traffic congestion. Together, these incidents are an unnecessary risk to the public, a waste of economic resources and a strain on the taxpayer/ratepayer.
Canadian one-call centres are all non-profit entities created by utilities that make it easier for excavators to contact owners and/or operators of underground infrastructure before digging. Instead of separately calling numerous utilities that could have facilities under a work-site, the excavator makes a single call to a one-call centre which then facilitates line locating services from multiple registered utilities.
Unfortunately, one-call centres are not present in every province and territory. There are six one call centres in Canada (Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia). Even in provinces that have a one-call centre, utilities are not mandated to be members of the one-call service, except in Ontario and for oil and gas pipelines in British Columbia and Alberta. Additionally, in Ontario, utilities on federal lands are not subject to provincial law to register with the province’s one-call centre.
The Committee considered the American experience with damage prevention, since the United States was an early adopter of one-call centres and the U.S. federal government has programs that encourage overall improvements in damage prevention through one-call notification systems including mandatory membership in state one-call centres.
Based on testimony from 15 witnesses representing utility and construction associations, regulators, one-call centres and Canadian and U.S. Common Ground Alliances, the Committee makes four recommendations to the federal government to improve public and worker safety and to prevent damage to buried facilities in Canada.
That the federal government reference the CSA Z247 standard for protection and prevention of damage to buried infrastructure in relevant federal legislation and encourage provinces and territories to reference the standard in legislation.
That buried facilities on federal land be registered with a provincial or territorial one-call service; and that the federal government require anyone undertaking construction or excavation on federal land to call a one-call service, where one exists.
That the federal government require all owners of federally regulated buried infrastructure to become members of a provincial or territorial one-call service, where one exists.
That the federal government introduce a conditional provincial/territorial grant dependent on the adoption of legislation requiring mandatory participation of all owners and/or operators of underground facilities and excavators in a prescribed one-call service. The grant would be available to assist one-call centres with training, innovation, education and public awareness.
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