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As I See It – Solutions for an Industry on the Brink

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As I See It – Solutions for an Industry on the Brink 


There is mounting pressure on the damage prevention industry as locate requests volumes continue to rise year after year. Excavators are increasingly frustrated at project delays caused by long waits for locates to be completed. Experienced locators are becoming scarce and are experiencing burnout because of impossible workloads. Facility owners fight to balance their financial commitment to safety and their commitment to keep prices down for their customers as they face higher and higher costs to provide locates. At the end of the day, something must give.

In Ontario, where it is the law to request locates and to be registered with the One Call service, the issue can be examined at its most pronounced. Since legislation was achieved in 2002, the demand for locates has exploded, resulting in unprecedented delays in obtaining locates in the field and unprecedented costs for facility owners. In the past two years, Ontario piled on by passing additional legislation to speed up housing construction (Bill 23) and to clear the path for enormous fibre builds (Bill 93). For an industry struggling to support its own weight, the new legislation may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Recently, Enbridge Gas in Ontario published a press release announcing they would be charging excavators $200 per locate as of May 1, 2023. Enbridge Gas's announcement sent shockwaves through the damage prevention community. While I understand and respect their right to make business decisions for their own company, and I even understand their reasoning, I am disturbed by the approach and worry about the implications for safety. The integrity and success of One Call was built on a system where non-profit organizations funded by utility owners created a way for contractors to obtain locates from multiple asset owners easily at no additional cost to their projects. This model may not be sustainable, but it doesn't change the fact that putting new roadblocks in the way of safe excavation is a recipe for disaster. 

Many in the industry have been introducing and testing creative ways to balance the load between excavators who need to be safe and facility owners who need to prevent third-party contacts. Several changes and initiatives at USP and in Alberta over the last 8-10 years have been anticipating and attempting to mitigate the impact of increasing locate requests. We introduced software that not only reduces notifications per locate request, but also pushes technological improvements by providing GML files of the dig site polygon to encourage facility owners to use the polygon in their own mapping systems to provide an automated way to clear more tickets and reduce truck-roll costs. We have participated in pilots and supported facility owner programs like Alternative Locate Requests and Self-locating initiatives. We changed our User Agreement to allow facility owners to charge for locates where the excavator is requesting multiple relocates without starting any work to discourage over-use and abuse of the system. We are supporting CAPULC’s Locating and Marking Standard in the hope it leads to an increase in the number of well-trained, qualified locators in the field. We extended the lifespan of locates. There ARE ways to ease the burden on the system, but the solutions must come from all stakeholders and must provide relief without simply shifting the burden of safety to one side or the other.

We can find solutions TOGETHER that protect the integrity of the damage prevention process. Isn’t that why we say that damage prevention is a SHARED RESPONSIBILITY?


Sher Kirk – Operations Director, Utility Safety Partners


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