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When it Comes to Utility Damage Prevention, Is BC Still the Wild West or Ahead of Its Time?

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Utility damage prevention is crucial for ensuring safety and minimizing disruptions.

Across Canada and the United States, the common practice before starting any excavation is to contact the local 1 Call Centre. The concept is simple: one call (or online request) provides all the information needed to dig safely. However, not all utility owners are members of the 1 Call System, leading to potential gaps in information.

Ontario’s Gold Standard and Its Challenges

In 2012, Ontario passed the Ontario Underground Infrastructure Notification System Act, making it mandatory for all underground utility owners in public rights of way to join Ontario 1 Call. This act positioned Ontario as a leader in damage prevention, requiring only one call for locates and increasing fines for non-compliance. Initially celebrated as the gold standard, Ontario’s system is now struggling under its success. The sheer volume of locate requests has overwhelmed the system, causing significant delays. Excavators sometimes wait months for locates or risk proceeding without them. To address this, Ontario and Alberta have introduced dedicated locator programs, allowing excavators to work directly with locate companies for their projects.

BC: The Wild West or a Visionary Approach?

For years, BC was seen by those in the Ontario system as the “wild west” of utility damage prevention. When an excavator contacts BC 1 Call, they typically receive records and as-builts for the area within a day or two, instead of waiting for a utility locator. It then falls to the excavator to locate the lines themselves or hire a third-party locate company. This approach, which resembles the dedicated locator programs now emerging in Ontario and Alberta, suggests that BC might have been ahead of its time.

The Future of Damage Prevention

As utility networks and excavation activities continue to grow, the need for efficient and reliable damage prevention systems becomes ever more critical. While BC’s could benefit from a true One Call system where all infrastructure owners are members, BC’s model of providing records quickly and relying on third-party locators could offer valuable lessons for other regions struggling with delays.

If you are planning any excavation work, it is crucial to ensure that you have accurate and timely utility locates. Contact Geoscan for professional and reliable utility locating services. Our team is dedicated to helping you dig safely and efficiently. Reach out to us today to learn more about our services and how we can assist with your next project.