March 15, 2011
By Terry Murphy CLP

Terry MurphyFor the last seven years, damage prevention officers from key organizations such as Bell Telephone, Enbridge Gas, Hydro One, Union Gas, Rogers, sewer and water contractors, municipalities, surveyors, Landscape Ontario and many others, have worked together under the umbrella of the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance to develop Best Practices for excavation contractors. These were developed to give guidance and understanding to contractors to eliminate strikes to underground utilities and other underground facilities.
  • The excavator should request underground locates by calling the Ontario One Call system. This locate must be present on site during the digging.
  • The excavator should be aware of any private facilities that may exist on the property by contacting the owners and requesting any mapping drawings. (Private facilities probably will not be marked by the locate company).
  • If locate lines cannot be located, the excavator should outline the dig line with white paint, prior to advising the locator to come for locates.
  • The excavator maintains the locator number on the site to prove a locate was requested.
  • If necessary, the locator and the excavator should meet to discuss any pre-excavation details.
  • Each excavator working on a site should request their own locates.
  • 24/7 Access to the One Call Centre.
  • The underground facility owner notifies the excavator in writing, prior to excavation, with markings or an all-clear notification.
  • It is up to the facility owner and the excavator to ensure that facilities are marked in an acceptable time to allow for the facility protection.
  • Prior to excavation, excavators are required to verify the limits of the locate markings to correspond to the limits of the proposed excavation.
  • Prior to starting work, a competent person reviews the location of the underground facilities with site personnel. All locate documentation is on the project site.
  • The excavator’s designated competent person at each job site has access to the names and phone numbers of the facility owners and the One Call centre.
  • The excavator uses reasonable care to avoid damaging underground facilities.
  • The excavator adheres to all federal and provincial occupational health and safety legislation and regulations.
  • The excavator, where practical, protects and preserves the staking, markings or other designations for underground facilities until they are no longer required. The excavator stops excavating and notifies the One Call centre for re-marking if any facility mark is removed or no longer visible.
  • The excavator has an observer to assist the equipment operator when operating excavating equipment around known underground facilities.
  • The excavator observes a tolerance zone which is comprised of a width of one metre (39.4 inches) from the centre line of a located cable or conduit and one metre from either side of the outside edge of the underground facility on a horizontal plane.
  • The excavator notifies the facility owner /operator directly or through the One-Call system if an inaccurately marked or unidentified underground facility is found.
  • Excavators support and protect exposed underground facilities from damage.
  • An excavator calls the One-Call centre to refresh the ticket when the excavation continues past the life of the ticket.
  • An excavator discovering or causing damage to an underground facility, notifies the owner /operator as identified on the locate form. All breaks, nicks, leaks, dents, groves, or other damage to facility lines, conduits, coatings or catholic protection, will be reported immediately
  • If damage results in the escape of any flammable, toxic or corrosive gas or liquid or endangers life, health or property or the environment, the responsible excavator immediately notifies the appropriate authorities and the facility owner / operator.
  • In case of an emergency excavation, the excavator notifies the One Call centre and requests an emergency locate. This is normally done within two hours in Ontario.
  • Contractors installing underground facilities notify the facility owner if the actual placement is different from the expected or planned placement.
  • Vacuum excavation is defined as a mechanical means of soil extraction though a vacuum when using water or jet devices for breaking ground. This method of excavation is commonly referred to as soft excavation technology and commonly accepted as being equivalent to or safer than hand digging.
  • Vacuum excavation equipment shall only be operated by a competent worker, as defined by the OH&S Act regulations. The worker shall have appropriate training as recognized by the industry.
  • Vacuum excavation can be used to excavate safely around utilities if the equipment has been designed and engineered for vacuum excavating by the manufacturer.
  • Each utility has specific criteria for safe excavating practices. Some utilities view vacuum excavation as the equivalent to hand digging when exposing their utility and others have restrictions on their use. Excavators must contact the utility owner to determine the extent of restrictions for the use of this method of excavation around their facilities.
  • Every excavator is responsible for recognizing and ensuring the integrity of the survey infrastructure.
  • Excavators are responsible for performing all excavations in a safe manner and consider all hazards present. Appropriate safeguards are put in place to protect the public.
  • All excavator/demolition contractors shall have a process to verify all utility disconnects and termination points, prior to demolition. They shall review the demolition permit and ensure that all utilities are capped or terminated. This may include utility locates, site inspections, obtaining confirmation of as-built drawings from the utility.
These best practices were taken from the ORCGA Best Practices Manual, Version 6, Section 4 and are applicable to all contractors who dig in the soil. While I know you may look at this as a labourious exercise, these best practices have been developed to eliminate the dangers of underground strikes. As soon as a landscaper puts a shovel, backhoe or skid steer into the soil, he becomes an excavator and is responsible for following these industry best practices. You may want to use this section as a subject for your safety meeting when your company starts back to work in the spring.
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