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Are You Hiring Competent Excavators?

If you are an asset owner and/or someone who hires and directs the work of excavation subcontractors, how do you know if a worker excavating on you project is competent?

We have a complex public and private locate system here in Ontario. If not managed properly, the results can be catastrophic for the asset owner and everyone involved on the project. However, the general public tends to be most affected when a buried facility damage occurs. The DIRT reports estimates the costs as a result of damages exceeded $650 million in 2017. The direct costs to the project owner amounted to 20% of this total, and the general public were affected by the indirect societal costs amounting to 80% of this total.

When hiring excavation contractors or those companies directing these contractors, the employer wants competent workers with experience, recognised up-to-date qualifications, and relevant health and safety training for the job. The challenge is that the utility locate industry is in its infancy. As such, the regulations, standards, guidelines and best practices, with respect to excavation safety around buried facilities, are scattered and continuously changing.

This presents a tremendous challenge to employers, and those directing the work of others, to ensure their workers are competent and up-to-date with training when working around buried facilities. With a vast amount of information in a state of constant change, “how do we ensure that our workers are properly trained to ensure we are in compliance?” is the question that we hear regularly.

Generally, the answer to that is simple. Most regulatory requirements have training courses (some mandatory) such as WHIMS or Working at Heights, that provide employers a level of assurance that workers have the education and training to work safe at a particular task or job. For the excavation community working around buried facilities, Utility Infrastructure Awareness (UIA) fills that void. UIA was designed to teach everyone working on an excavation project how to work in compliance within the complex public and private locate processes that covers:

  • The complexity and risk when working around buried facilities;

  • the importance of following industry specific regulations, standards, guidelines and best practices;

  • knowing how to manage the complex public and private locate processes;

  • how to respect the marks on the ground; and

  • the importance of taking ownership of your safety and those around you.

The benefits of using UIA to qualify workers and subcontractors for excavation projects are many:

  • Increases safety by reducing damages to buried facilities;

  • avoids costly overruns from the mismanagement of locates;

  • ensures that you are employing competent workers on projects with an excavation component;

  • creates accountability for excavation contractors;

  • helps owners and employers prove due diligence for worker training when a buried facility is damaged, or if a worker is injured as a result;

  • Fosters a positive safety culture when working around buried facilities; and

  • Ensures that everyone on a project speaks the same language and has the same mindset when working around buried facilities.

Spring is coming soon! Have your workers and subcontractors Utility Infrastructure Awareness trained and certified.

If you would like more information about how Utility Infrastructure Awareness training and certification can benefit your organization, please message Adam at

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