Safe digging: More important than ever, easier than ever

When we see construction in our communities, it can be a sign of economic prosperity, which is a good thing. However, construction projects can damage buried infrastructure such as pipelines if contractors and homeowners don’t locate lines before the start of an excavation project.

Mike Sullivan, executive director with the Canadian Common Ground Alliance and president of Alberta One-Call, said that damages to utilities are avoided 99 per cent of the time when a locate request has been made to a one-call service.

“This is an important figure,” Sullivan said. “It means that the (damage-prevention) process works. However, in that one per cent of the time when damages do occur, it’s typically because the party hasn’t waited the required time, respected the marks or took the time to dig with care.”

The bottom line: Damage to pipelines from construction is entirely preventable.

Following the damage-prevention process is more important than ever

Sullivan explained that in Alberta, for example, an “unprecedented level of construction” combined with Alberta’s short construction window (due to weather) can cause “pinch points” that negatively affect the damage-prevention process.

Contacting your provincial one-call service is the first step of several to preventing damage to underground lines.

“The excavator needs to wait the required time for a locate, which is typically two days; respect the marks – meaning they need to know what the locate markings mean; and they need to dig with care – meaning they need to follow the instructions for digging near buried infrastructure,” said Sullivan.

Unsafe digging puts individuals, communities and the environment at risk. Learn more about the damage-prevention process for pipelines here.

Did you know? It’s now the law in Ontario to locate underground utilities before you dig.

Locating lines is easier than ever

In many provinces, you can trigger the damage-prevention process online. Just visit clickbeforeyoudig.com. Quebec’s one-call service even has its own app, and Alberta One-Call will be launching an app later this year.

Today may be the last day of Safe Dig month, but it is just the start of spring digging season, so visit clickbeforeyoudig.com before you start any project.

Other Safe Dig posts:


The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 115,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2012, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.1 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.