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DIGGING SAFELY
One-call Notification Systems and the Prevention of Damage to Canada’s Buried Infrastructure

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About the Study

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What is the importance of “Digging Safely”?

Every year thousands of buried wires, cables, pipelines, water mains, and sewer lines are damaged in Canada by uncontrolled excavation. Normally, 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, a struck facility can strain emergency personnel, cause traffic congestion and increase construction costs through delays. In most cases, accidents could have been avoided if the excavator adopted safe digging practices and called before digging. In February 2014, the Senate Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee launched a study to examine one-call notification services (one-call centres) and to consider options where the federal government could contribute to preventing damages to buried infrastructure.

What are one-call centres and why are they important?

In Canada, excavators are legally required to identify the location of buried infrastructure on the worksite prior to digging. They can do this by contacting each utility that could have facilities below, or they can make a single call to a one-call centre. These centres operate 24 hours a day/seven days a week and provide free of charge utility notification services. They use the dig information received by excavators to notify all utilities registered with the one-call centre that have facilities near the work site area.  Usually, a single locate request results in multiple utility notifications. Once notified, the utility (or utilities) provides dig clearances or arranges line locate services to mark the work site with water-soluble paint or flags prior to excavation.

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How does a study of one-call centres benefit Canadians?

In 2013, 7,264 damage incidents to buried infrastructure were reported in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. This translates to 29 damages for every business day in 2013. One-call centres can help reduce these incidents but 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.

Figure 1
British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec

Cause of Damage by Excavation Equipment
2012

British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec Cause of Damage by Excavation Equipment 2012 pie chart

Figure 2
British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec

Percentage of Damages by Type of Work Performed
2013

British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec
Percentage of Damages by Type of Work Performed 2012 pie chart

Senators who participated in this study

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Chair
Richard Neufeld
C — British Columbia

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Deputy Chair
Paul J. Massicotte
Lib — De Lanaudière,
Quebec

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Douglas Black
C — Alberta

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Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu
C — La Salle, Quebec

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Michael L. MacDonald
C — Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

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Grant Mitchell
Lib — Alberta

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Dennis Glen Patterson
C — Nunavut

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Pierrette Ringuette
Lib — New Brunswick

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Judith Seidman
C — De la Durantaye, Quebec

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Nick G. Sibbeston
Lib — Northwest Territories

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John D. Wallace
C — Rothesay, New Brunswick

Ex-officio members of the committee:
The Honourable Senators Claude Carignan, P.C. (or Yonah Martin) and James S. Cowan (or Joan Fraser)

Other Senators who have participated from time to time in the study:
The Honourable Senators Linda Frum, Joseph A. Day, Pierre Claude Nolin and David Tkachuk.

Contact information

General Information:
613-990-0088 or 1-800-267-7362

Email: ENEV@sen.parl.gc.ca

Mailing Address:
Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources
The Senate of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, K1A 0A4