Public and worker safety are at serious and significant risk when utility lines such as buried pipelines, telephone, cable, hydro, or sewer and water mains are struck or damaged because homeowners, building contractors and other excavators do not obtain their precise locations before digging. Last year alone there were almost 3,200 natural gas line breaks in Ontario.
In addition to the risk of a public emergency and the inconvenience of utility outages, it is estimated that damages caused by excavators who don’t call before they dig, cost utility customers, municipalities and, ultimately, Ontario’s taxpayers about $39 million a year.
There are significant additional indirect costs related to dispatching emergency services, liability related to injuries and/or fatalities, plus lost revenue, productivity and efficiency losses for businesses of all sizes when accidents occur and vital underground infrastructure is damaged as a result.
A single point-of-contact, mandatory, province-wide one call system, FREE to the end user, which requires all asset owners to register their infrastructure, would eliminate confusion about who to call – giving excavators one simple telephone number they can use to obtain the location of all underground utility lines before digging.
A single, mandatory one call system is directly aligned with the provincial government’s “Open Ontario” and “Open for Business” policy direction as well as complementing the provincial government’s objectives of having safe communities and the reliable infrastructure necessary to maintain Ontario’s growth and prosperity.
It is simple, more efficient, more business-friendly, and less costly.
Today in Ontario, an excavator may need to call up to 13 different phone numbers to locate all utility lines near a dig site, and each asset owner has a different process to follow. As a result of this onerous approach, critical steps are being missed or ignored. This can mean drastic, even deadly, results.
A solution exists. Today, excavators in Ontario do have access to a voluntary single call service to locate utility lines – Ontario One Call. Ontario One Call (http://www.on1call.com) has approximately 153 facility owners as members, including the founding members: Union Gas, Bell Canada and Enbridge Gas.
In the 15 years since the not-for-profit Ontario One Call was introduced, damage to utility lines by excavators has declined significantly, while the number of requests to provide the location of underground equipment has steadily increased.
Despite these gains, participation in this system is voluntary. Not all underground asset owners are members, and public and worker safety remains at risk. Mandatory membership would greatly enhance efficiency.
In Ontario, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, excavators are legally required to obtain the location of utility lines before breaking ground. However, because Ontario does not have a single, mandatory one call location system, a culture has developed where timely and efficient responses to requests are not a priority. To make matters worse, an excavator may need to call up to 13 different phone numbers (as is the case in the City of Ottawa) to locate all utility lines within the requested work site, each underground asset owner has a different process to follow and depending on the utility, it can take from two to six weeks to get a utility line locate. That has resulted in an onerous approach where critical steps are being missed and often times ignored; and sometimes tragic accidents have occurred as a result.
The existing system is a significant challenge to excavators, home builders and contractors, who must invest time, resources and money to manage these ineffective processes; as well as businesses who can be impacted financially if they’re waiting on locates for necessary capital work and/or adversely affected when an accident does happen.
In the United States, mandatory one call systems have been successfully implemented in all 50 jurisdictions and over a four-year period, no locate damages decreased by 70 per cent (http://www.call811.com).
Having all asset owners take part in a single, mandatory one-call system, means that municipalities, homeowners, building contractors and other excavators will have one central contact point, reducing the number of phone calls that would be required to individual utilities and other facility owners to obtain the location of utility lines – thus increasing productivity, and efficiency and reducing costs.
In addition, with a single provider, processes would be streamlined and standardized, further improving quality and reducing the administrative burden born by the business and excavating community.
Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey (PC) and Hamilton East – Stoney Creek MPP Paul Miller’s (NDP) Private Members Bill, Bill 8 – ‘The Ontario One Call Act, 2011’ – passed Second Reading on December 1st, 2011 and has now been referred to the Standing Committee on General Government. ‘The Ontario One Call Act, 2011’, if passed, will establish Ontario One Call Ltd. as a not-for-profit, single point-of-contact for all underground utility location services in Ontario.
This resolution is universally supported by Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) and its 17 stakeholder groups consisting of over 100 public, private and non-profit organizations (see http://www.orcga.com/home.asp)
The ORCGA represents the broadest consensus on damage prevention practices in Ontario and many of its members are also members of their local Chambers of Commerce. Its aim is to enhance public and worker safety and protect the vast underground utility infrastructure which spans the province and is critical to Ontario’s economic future.
It is for these reasons that the London Chamber along with Chambers in Chatham and Windsor will be encouraging the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to join with us in asking the Government of Ontario to enable the Passage of Bill 8 – The One Call Act, 2011, or a similar Bill, making it mandatory for all utility asset owners and excavators to join a single, not for profit, one call locate system. It will reduce the risk of a serious public emergency; save municipalities, businesses and taxpayer’s money; reduce red tape; improve productivity and increase public safety. What’s not to like? It’s simply win, win, win.