Dig Safe part 2: 5 facts about safe digging across the Canada/U.S. border

Last week on this blog, we talked about the different types of pipelines, and how safe digging procedures differ for each. As the association for Canada’s transmission pipeline companies, we are specifically concerned with the pipelines that carry oil and gas products over long distances, many of which cross provincial and even international borders. So, this week we’ll be taking a look at the Canada/U.S. connection.

To learn more about the different locate systems in Canada and the U.S., we spoke with Shannon Neufeld, technical leader of damage prevention operations with the National Energy Board. She explained that calling or clicking before you dig is the law in both Canada and the U.S., and that the systems in both countries are very similar.

Locator pic

Here are some interesting facts we learned about the Canadian and U.S. locate systems:

#1 Pipeline damage prevention is a shared North American goal

Stakeholders and industry members on both sides of the border are collaborating to prevent damage to underground infrastructure through the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), and the Canadian Common Ground Alliance (CCGA). Their work includes public awareness campaigns, developing regulations and industry best practices, and providing resources for damage and one call centres.

#2 The “one-stop shop” model for pipeline locating started with ‘811 call before you dig

This U.S. campaign, based on an easily remembered phone number, has been highly successful in creating awareness. Part of its success is due to the fact that people can call one number for the locations of all services and pipelines.

#3 Success in the U.S. led to a new idea in Canada 

When the CCGA saw the success of the U.S. campaign and tried to secure 811 in Canada, it was already taken. So they went back to the drawing board, and developed ‘click before you dig’, which is a truly cross border service. Visitors to the website are prompted to click on their home province or state, and they are then directed to their local service, wherever one exists. In parts of Atlantic Canada and the three Northern Territories, there is no one-call centre, and homeowners or contractors must contact the pipeline companies directly.

Wherever there is a one-call centre, visitors are able to request that all the buried utilities on their property be located and marked.

#4 Digital is changing the one call experience 

One call centres are moving with technology, and even though ‘call before you dig’ is still an option, click before you dig, has added a new dimension to the process. It’s now possible to attach maps and photos, and some regions even offer a ‘click before you dig’ app where you can use the GPS on your smartphone to mark your dig location and submit your locate request.

#5 Canadian pipeline regulations doesn’t stop at the 49th Parallel 

The National Energy Board is the Canadian federal regulator of all pipelines that cross provincial or national borders, and the federal regulatory champion of the CCGA. That means that they support and collaborate with the CCGA to create regulations and best practices for work around pipelines, and they monitor and enforce compliance.

‘Call for the locate’ both sides of the border 

“Regardless of where you are living or working in North America, clicking or calling before you dig is the easiest way to contact the pipeline company to ensure that you have the necessary information to dig safely,” said Shannon.

The regulations are in place to protect people and the environment, and violation of the regulations may result in penalties that can include financial and/or criminal charges. So take that one small step and plan for a safe outcome by clicking or calling before you dig.

Now that you’ve read the five facts, read about the ‘five steps you should take to prevent pipeline damage’.

To learn more about third party damage to pipelines, and how it’s prevented, check out our damage prevention fact sheet, and these other damage prevention blog posts.

Stay tuned for more ‘dig safe’ posts, as we continue the theme for Dig Safe Month.


The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 117,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2014, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.