OHS Canada Magazine

Ontario mandates One Call system for utility locates

TORONTO (Canadian OH&S News)


TORONTO (Canadian OH&S News)

The first private member’s bill passed by the current Ontario parliament will help ensure that landscapers, construction crews, weekend warriors and anyone else sticking a shovel in the ground will know full well what utilities are buried there.

The Ontario Underground Infrastructure Notification System Act, 2012 makes mandatory the Ontario One Call system, a not-for-profit corporation which provides locates and information on utilities buried in a specified area. Previously the program was voluntary and utility owners were under no obligation to provide information on buried utilities.

“It will help us tremendously in the fact that everybody will now be part of the system. We can make the one call to get a hold of all the utilities,” says Darrin Husack, environmental health and safety manager at constructor Con-Drain. “We aren’t going to be missing anybody or trying to search and find out that guy wasn’t part of One Call.”

The act mandates that the following are members of the One Call corporation if they own or operate underground infrastructure and must provide One Call with locates: every municipality in Ontario, every gas distributor and transmitter, every operator of a distribution system, every person or entity regulated under the Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Act, and every person or entity that owns or operates underground infrastructure that crosses or is in the vicinity of a public right of way. The act also specifically lists Hydro One Inc and Ontario Power Generation Inc as members.

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Bill 8, which passed third reading on June 14 and was given royal assent five days later, was first introduced to parliament by Robert Bailey, the Progressive Conservative Party MPP for Sarnia-Lambton, who worked in the industry before being elected.

Bailey says he was approached by the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORGCA), which boasts more than 460 member organizations, about the voluntary nature of the existing One Call program.

Though the first bill died when an election was called in 2011, it was reintroduced in the fall with NDP MPP Paul Miller as co-sponsor.

“The minority government certainly had a lot to do with us getting it implemented. For the government to be able to move forward and allow their legislation, they had to implement our bill to get some of the things they wanted. It’s too bad it takes that sort of situation, but hey, at the end of the day, the public will be safer, the infrastructure that belongs to these owners will be safer, and I look forward to the regulations being drafted,” Bailey says.

All 50 US states have a mandatory one call system in place, which has reportedly led to a 70 per cent reduction in damages, as well as a 99 per cent success rate regarding locate calls.

Husack says in the voluntary system, the company often has to call up to 14 different companies for locates — “if you can actually identify them, some you don’t even know are there.”

“You do what you can through One Call and the ones that you know about, the rest it’s kind of, unless you hear about it from somebody or you’ve had past experience in the area, it’s pretty difficult to find out,” he says. “Going forward, we would be able to make one call and find out everybody, all the utilities that are part and parcel of that project, instead of having to try to track them down individually.”