Safety Tips

Underground Facilities

There's a Lot to Watch Out For!

When people think of underground facilities, they often think of power and phone lines. But underground facilities include anything below the ground which transports or stores:

Water
Sewage
Electronic, telephonic, and telegraphic communications
Cablevision
Electric Energy
Oil
Gas

These may be contained in pipes, sewers, conduits, valves, manholes, cables, fiber optics, lines, wires, and catchbasins. There's a lot to watch out for underground.

The Risks

If you hit an underground facility while digging, you could cause:

Injury to yourself and others:

Electrocution
Explosion
High pressure releases

Severe damage:

Isolate entire communities
Disrupt vital communications networks
Render computer-based business operations useless

Financial penalties:

Legal costs due to prosecution or litigation
Fines for violations of provincial legislation

Ground Disturbances

There are many activities that create a ground disturbance and have the potential for danger:

Excavating, digging, and trenching
Plowing (cable, pipe), drilling, tunneling, augering, and backfilling
Driving posts, topsoil stripping, land leveling, and quarrying
Tree planting, rock picking, grading, blasting, and clearing

Contact Sask 1st Call

Most Saskatchewan communities and industries are serviced by a complex network of underground facilities. Before you dig or excavate, find out what is buried below-through the FREE Buried Facility Location Notification Service.

Call toll free: 1-866-828-4888

When you call to request locates, Sask 1st Call will notify its members in the area. Those members will then call you and arrange a meeting date and time on your site to mark the locations of their buried facilities.

Remember to call at least two full working days, or 48 hours, before you want to dig!!

Location Marks

Red Electrical

Yellow Gas, oil, petroleum and gaseous materials

Blue Potable water

Green Sanitary, sewers, storm sewers and drain lines

Orange Telephone, communications, cable T.V., alarm and signals

White Proposed excavation

Pink Temporary survey markings

Purple Reclaimed water, irrigation, and slurry lines

Control Zones

Generally, a Control Zone is the area one metre on either side of location marks. However, some special cases such as fiber optics and high pressure pipelines require a Control Zone of five metres.

Facilities must be exposed by non-destructive techniques before mechanical equipment is used within the Control Zone. Always use the method of exposure approved by the utility owner. This often means careful hand exposure before mechanical equipment is used within the Control Zone.

Hand exposure is started at or near the location marks, working outwards into the Control Zone until the buried facility is found. However, high voltage energized cables should never be hand exposed.

Make sure you know the Control Zones and hand exposure procedures for the underground facility you are working around.

Digging at Home

Homeowners often need to put in new fence posts, plant a tree, or build a garage pad or retaining wall. Remember: Call Before You Dig!

It's easy to forget that just doing some work around the yard can be extremely dangerous. But it's just as important to be careful at home as it is at work. In fact, there are some special problems when digging at home:

Although utility lines are supposed to be buried at approved depths, conditions can change. Some shallow utilities may by less than 300 mm (12 inches) below ground surface in residential areas
There may be secondary services (such as electrical, telephone, or gas lines) located between your house and garage
Utility Rights of Way (URW) are becoming very common in urban areas. They are usually located across the front of residential properties. Your use of land within a URW is restricted.
You own the sewer and water services on your property. Municipalities will not locate these facilities (and they won't pay for damage either)

Make sure you know your rights-you are responsible when digging on your property.

With underground facilities what seems like the smallest incident can cause incredible destruction. You can prevent disasters by following these basic steps:

Plan your work
Find out what's below
Hand expose facilities
Use safe work practices and procedures

Both excavators and owners of buried facilities are responsible for preventing damage to underground facilities-make sure you do your part!

For more information, refer to current applicable Occupational Health and Safety Legislation.