5 steps you should take to prevent pipeline damage

Pipelines are designed to be safe. From the materials used to build them, to the science employed to protect their integrity and the continuous monitoring and maintenance they undergo, safety is at the forefront of every step of a pipeline’s life cycle.

But pipelines can be damaged. The most common cause?

Excavation and construction.

That’s right – excavation and construction around transmission pipelines is one of the most common causes of damage to buried pipelines. So before any work takes place, including digging, scraping or even placing heavy equipment along the right-of-way, buried pipelines must be located. 

Whose responsibility is it to protect pipelines from damage?

The short answer is that protecting pipelines is everyone’s responsibility. This includes pipeline operators and stakeholders like landowners and excavators, who share a responsibility to protect workers, the public and the environment.

Pipeline operators meet this responsibility by: 

  • Constructing pipelines according to accepted practices and governing regulations
  • Being proactive in damage prevention activities
  • Responding in a timely fashion to requests for line locates from the digging community
  • Developing an awareness of and respect for the digging community’s concerns and the constraints under which it does business

How can stakeholders, including the public, prevent pipeline damage?

Members of the digging community and the general public alike, have a responsibility to prevent damage to pipelines.

Here are five steps you can take to meet this responsibility:

 1.  Know where buried pipelines are located

Pipeline markers are signs found along the right-of-way, typically at road or river crossings, to identify approximately where the buried pipelines are located. However, these markers should not be solely relied on for the exact location, path or depth of a pipeline.

2.  Know the number for your provincial One-Call Centre or Call Before You Dig program

Most Canadian provinces have a One-Call Centre or a Call Before You Dig program to alert pipeline owners and operators of excavaton and construction projects that could damage a pipeline. If a One-Call Centre does not exist, you should contact the pipeline operator(s) directly. 

Always contact a One-Call Centre at least three working days before digging or conducting any ground disturbance near buried pipelines.

3.  Wait until the lines are marked before commencing digging 

Upon receipt of a locate request, the One-Call Centre will notify the pipeline operator(s) in the vicinity of the digging project. Within two to three days, the pipeline operator will contact you to determine next steps.  

Regardless of the timeframe, you should wait to hear from the pipeline operator before proceeding. Identification of the lines helps to prevent damage and minimize risk to the public and the environment.

 4.  Follow the instructions of an authorized pipeline operator representative

Don’t take any actions until you are absolutely sure you will not impact a buried pipeline, and then follow the instructions from an authorized pipeline operator representative. 

5.  Report any damages to the pipeline operator immediately

This is extremely important because damaging a pipeline could result in anything from service disruptions, to environmental impacts, to serious injuries, or even the potential loss of life.

To learn more, check out our Pipeline Damage Prevention Fact Sheet (PDF).


The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 110,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2011, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.3 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.