May 15, 2012
By Terry Murphy CLP

Terry MurphyThe Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) is as much of a police organization as the Ministry of Labour (MOL). Both can enact a work stoppage and close your business; both can issue fines; both can arrest you; both have safety and worker protection as a main focus; both can bring in the police to investigate under Bill C-45, which can lead to a criminal prosecution including fines, penalties and prison time, and both are watching industry safety practices.

Specific target area

The two agencies are very similar in mandates and goals, but the TSSA has specific target areas as its focus, while the MOL’s focus is overall safety in industrial and manufacturing, construction and farming industries.

TSSA is the organization that investigates any type of accident that involves fuel and elevators, or any underground utility strikes such as gas or electricity hits by excavators. If a landscaper hits a residential or commercial gasline, it will be investigated by TSSA.

Minimum fine

As I have previously noted, the minimum fine or charge is $700. In addition, the gas utility will repair the damaged line and charge your firm anything from $1,000 to $3,000, and more, depending on the extent of the damage. TSSA is an Ontario organization, not national. Its inspectors do not require an apprenticeship or any other special training, however, many do have their gas licenses and other certifications, in addition to training in associated fields.

When a fuel leak is detected, or there is a utility fire, accident or potential hazard regarding fuels, elevators, or underground utilities, TSSA will often partner with other organizations such as WSIB, MOL, MOE, fire department, police or other organization to inspect and determine the root cause of the problem. They will also assess the safety aspects of individuals who were involved in the incident to determine if any other penalties, fines or charges are required.

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of listening to a TSSA inspector address our horticultural technician apprenticeship students from Mohawk College. He went over several key suggestions for the students from his industry experiences such as locates, tolerance zone, white painting planting areas, colour codes and more.

Locates at no cost

In his experience, the key challenge for the landscape industry is still obtaining locates and too few contractors using Ontario One Call. Many landscaper hits are due to the lack of locates. He is still very surprised, because locate information is available at no cost and may save a life, in addition to saving the excavator a great deal of money if he hits a utility line. The students had many questions and were very impressed with the detailed answers and knowledge and experience level of the TSSA inspector.

If you have questions on any underground issue, TSSA is available and very willing to assist you with an answer or any further explanation you may require. TSSA is in our industry’s corner to help us minimize underground hits and prevent underground utility assets. Contact TSSA at 1-877-682- 8772, or visit its website at  
Terry Murphy can be reached at