Across Canada, safe digging advocates are coming together in support of an important bill that needs traction. Introduced in December 2015 by the Honourable Senator Grant Mitchell, Bill S-229 is an Underground Infrastructure Safety Enhancement Act that will create a federal notification system.
More specifically, Bill S-229 will require operators of federally regulated underground infrastructure or that which is located on federal land to register it and provide pertinent details with a notification centre.
Prior to digging, the general public will also be required to request a ‘locate’ from a notification centre. Underground infrastructure owners must respond to such requests by providing information and either marking the site accordingly or giving an official ‘all clear’.
“The safety of workers and residents in our communities is paramount,” explains Melissa Pierce, EAPUOC Board Member. “While we currently have a number of agencies working together to raise awareness and to change risky digging practices, ultimately we are relying on people to use good judgement and to voluntarily call or click before they dig. This legislation will firm up the process.”
Bill S-229 will help ensure better coordination, communication and accountability. The proposed act will not only protect Canadians, but it will also safeguard the hundreds of thousands of kilometres of cables and pipes buried beneath rural and urban communities across the country.
“It’s frustrating because we know that the significant costs and risks associated with uninformed digging are preventable,” explains Pierce. “When a locate request is placed with Alberta One-Call, damage to underground infrastructure is avoided 99% of the time.”
Each year, damage to underground infrastructure totals $1 billion. In 2016, 4356 separate adverse incidents were reported in Alberta alone. Recognizing the importance of enhancing safety, preserving essential services and protecting the integrity of underground infrastructure, EAPUOC and partners are reaching out to the community for help.
“The Canadian Common Ground Alliance has established a quick and easy way for people to show their support,” adds Pierce. “The website - ICanDigSafe.ca– has information about the Bill as well as a prepared letter that can be personalized and sent directly to your Member of Parliament in one easy click.”
For years, EAPUOC and others have been encouraging people to click or call before they dig. While this message will continue irrespective of the outcome of Bill S-229, today safe digging advocates are also asking people to take a moment to click on ICanDigSafe.ca so that this comprehensive damage legislation doesn’t get stuck in the mud.
EAPUOC is a not-for-profit, multi-stakeholder organization that includes companies, municipalities and agencies who are committed to community safety and awareness. We promote best practices around buried pipelines and utilities and cables, and act as a communications network during emergencies, in the Capital Region.