How do pipeline companies prevent damage by third parties?

Some of the biggest threats to pipeline safety are unauthorized construction, development, encroachment and digging activities near pipelines.

Preventing damage to pipelines is a shared responsibility, which is why pipeline owners and operators work with the government, the public, the excavating community, developers, municipal works departments and individual contractors to develop education programs and services.

Everyone has a role to play in preventing third-party damage to pipelines—from pipeline companies, to contractors and construction workers, to anyone who digs in their back yard.

Click Before You Dig

One click costs you nothing. Not clicking could cost you everything

Damaging a pipeline, or any underground utility, can have costly – even deadly – consequences.

Anyone planning an excavation project – which includes everything from planting a tree and installing fence posts, to building a road or berm – is required to Click Before You Dig.

This national program will direct Canadians to their provincial one call centre, where they can report their activities, find out where the underground utilities are on their property, and learn how to safely dig around them.

When people use these free and simple services, damages to underground utilities, including pipelines, are significantly reduced. Individuals or organizations who violate provincial and federal regulations around damage prevention may face penalties.

Warning signs/markers

Transmission pipelines are buried within a strip of land called a pipeline right-of-way, which can be up to 40 metres wide.

Federal and provincial regulations require pipeline companies to place identification signs or markers along their pipeline route. These noticeable, colourful signs are located along highways, at road, railway and water crossings and other prominent locations, to clearly mark the presence of a pipeline.

Although these signs identify that a pipeline is in the area, they do not give the exact location or depth of the pipeline. The exact location of a pipeline or other underground infrastructure can only be identified by checking with the pipeline company or clicking before you dig.


Examples of pipeline right-of-way warning markers.


Spreading the message

Pipeline companies are responsible for educating the public, contractors, emergency responders and public officials about how to safely work near pipelines. If the pipeline crosses provincial or federal borders, these public awareness activities are governed by federal regulations.

CEPA members have entire departments dedicated to promoting the Click Before You Dig program and other public awareness activities, including open houses, advertising campaigns and youth programming.

When people call or click, incidents are prevented.

Aerial view of the pipeline right of way

Once this pipeline is completed, the land will be restored, but the pipeline right of way will still be identifiable. Photo courtesy of Alliance Pipelines.

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