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Under Pressure: Managing Utility Locate Expectations


Over the years I have received numerous requests from clients that perform ground disturbance work that are seeking advice on how to manage their client’s requests with respect to timing for locates. Most often these excavators must rely on the public and private locates provided to them.


Here are a few excerpts within the last couple of years from the letters or emails that were forwarded to me for my advice:


You had asked about the locates for this project and I spoke to our team and was told by our H&S director that due to the fact that this project (specifically the area we are drilling) was a forest and that we are the ones who have developed it from the ground up, e.g. cutting the trees down, doing all the cut and fill and the earthworks, driving the piles, drilling caisson holes, etc. we are the ones that have added utilities or foreign items in this area, so, he told me very specifically that we do not need any locates such as ON1Call, except the ones provided by our own in-house utilities team who is in charge of installing and managing the utilities for our entire project (in fact, our construction team does not use any locates for this area except for our own in-house team's clearances). I have attached the clearance email from our utilities team for your information.”


“Given we will only be ordering public locates today, I'm worried we won't get utility clearances in by Monday. We will be hiring a private locator to clear the holes this week. The client has asked me to ask you if you'd be willing to dig at the site with only private locates and not public locates, should the public locates not be ready in time. The site is an industrial car manufacturing plant. There's no pressure from our end, the client just wanted me to check in case you agreed. They are in a big rush to get this done.”


“We recently completed public and private locates for the subject property. The private locates expired on July 20, 20xx and the public locates expired on August 12, 20xx. We have prepared this letter to inform you that the grounds have been in care and control of the Property owner since the date of expiration of the public and private locates and the grounds will continue to be in care and control of the Property owner until the drilling is completed passed these expiry dates.”


Our locate system in Ontario is not perfect and late locates are a real problem for excavators. The delays can be costly, and as a result, this has led to frustration with excavators looking for ways to cut corners to get the job done any way they can. The pressure from clients is real, but make no mistake, once there is an incident, hindsight is 20/20 and this is when the finger pointing starts. I have witnessed this firsthand and it can get very nasty very quickly.


The scenarios above happen all the time. I cannot stress enough that everyone is required by LAW to obtain public locates and have private facilities marked before performing any ground disturbance no matter what kind of site, or where it is in Ontario.


I must stress that I am not a lawyer, and I am not offering legal advice, however, common sense tells me that asking someone to break the law by telling them that you can assure there is nothing in the ground, and that you will assume any liability, will not safeguard you if someone is injured in the event of a damaged buried facility.


Please, always call Ontario One Call and a private locates service provider (if working on private property) when performing ground disturbance work in Ontario. Waiting for the locates to be complete, could save someone’s life.


If anyone has any comments or if you have an experience that you would like to share, please message me at grant.piraine@ownyoursafety.com. Safe digging everyone!

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