Line locates in Saskatchewan are now valid for 30 calendar days

By Shannon Doka, Saskatchewan Common Ground Alliance

When real life happens, it’s often people at the ground level who see the need for change first.

Consider Saskatchewan’s previous 10-day standard for locate expiry for underground facilities. In theory, it was meant to ensure that construction projects happen expeditiously and safely before markings got stale.

However, as Donna Gibson, a human resources consultant in workplace health and safety for the City of Regina, learned, the reality was different when it came to a common problem – multiple water leaks on multiple worksites.

Gibson recalls a situation where some 20 simultaneous water leaks in the city, combined with the unpredictability of mother nature, forced crews (as well as locators) to rapidly move from site to site. The goal was always to get the work done within 10 days but instead it was causing rushing, additional delays and potential safety risks.

“The crews were asking me, ‘Why do we have a 10-day limit?’ and then, ‘What happens if we do have real emergencies?’” said Gibson. “When we have multiple water leaks throughout the city, we need the ability to go to other sites, and the crews were asking for the flexibility of not having to deal with the 10-day requirement.”

From the industry perspective, Brook Andres of Triple A Directional Drilling cites the difficulty of “multiple locates being done by multiple locating contractors within 10 days.” This situation forced some operational challenges on his business.

“We had sent a crew up to a town six hours away to complete a project that had locates requested the week prior,” said Andres. “The crew arrived to find one set of locates done, but the other locates were not. The locator said he had been too busy, but he would stop by periodically over the next week on his way to other jobs to give updates on when he could do the locates.”

After a lost week of wages, hotels and meals for a crew of three men – more than what the project was worth – the crew ended up having to do the locates themselves.

Knowing that other jurisdictions like Alberta (30 calendar days) and Ontario (60 calendar days for most utilities) had longer locate expiry deadlines and wanting to be responsive to stakeholders, the Saskatchewan Common Ground Alliance (SCGA) investigated a more practical solution.