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.


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.”

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4 Comments » for Ontario mandates One Call system for utility locates
  1. Jeff Hitchcock says:

    For anyone wishing to register their infrastructure before the time periods outlined in the Bill, please contact us via the ON1Call Website at http://www.on1call.com. There is a link for Facility Owners to become a member on the front page that can be used.

  2. Concerned contractor says:

    As of April 2nd 2012 bell Canada will no longer complete remark locates.After 30 days the locates are expired but bell will not relocate,they say that the contractor is responsible to keep repainting there underground infrastructure. Some projects go on for years! They also won’t locate if signs are being installed,the city where I live was installing signs and hit bell fibre four times in one area (on public property). Bell says there trying to save money by not doing remarks or sign locates,we’ll how much did those fibre cost? And what about all those customers who lost Internet and 911 service!! It seems that money comes before public safety. I always though damage prevention was the name of the game, seems money will always rule over public safety. We’ve received remark locates that now say n/a or clear? There are now laws on how a excavator can proceed with there excavation but where are the laws for the utility owners? We’ve had municipal governments tell us that if we want an underground locate we’ll have to pay for it? I’ve been doing utility locates for 13 years now and I thought things were getting better with these new laws but for every step forward it’s two steps back,like usual it will take a death before things are done the right way. ( resident unable to reach 911because bell refuses to do locates for a sign). Thanks.

  3. Joseph Graci says:

    We have had some bad experiences with One Call Locates whereby they have taken over 2 weeks to complete locates. Is there a set time limit to have locates completed? What can be done if they exceed the time limit?

  4. Hi Joseph,
    Members have 5 business days to complete your locate (except in emergency situations where timelines are shorter). If you feel that your locate is unreasonably late, contact the locate service provider. They’re under contract from the utilities to deliver that locate in a timely manner. If you do not get a sufficient resolution, contact compliance@on1call.com with the details. Utilities can face penalties for not completing your locate on time.

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