June 22, 2012
Ontario digging notification law passes
The recent passage of the Ontario Underground Infrastructure Notification System Act, 2012 , at Queen’s Park was “monumental,” says the president of the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) .
“We’re elated. This is huge for everybody who puts a shovel in the ground in the province of Ontario,” said Jim Douglas, ORCGA president.
Formerly the Ontario One Call Ltd. Act, the law will establish a non-profit, industry-funded mandatory “One Call” call centre as the single point of contact for all underground utility location services in Ontario. Currently, an excavator may need to call up to 13 numbers to locate all nearby underground utilities.
Three committee meetings were held at Queen’s Park where various leaders from the construction industry spoke in favour of the bill.
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) spoke against the bill.
Pat Vanini, AMO executive director, says municipalities are already doing free locate services for their infrastructure.
“Really, it’s a private sector corporation for which we’re being mandated to join,” she said
Forty-four Ontario municipalities, including Hamilton, London, Oshawa, Kingston and Kitchener voluntarily joined.
Vanini said the problem with the mandatory approach is there are a lot of unknowns. She said the legislation does not deal with the governance and operation of the call centre.
“It’s hard to join something when you don’t know what it really is.”
Ontario Sewer and Waterman Construction Association (OSWCA) assistant executive director Susan McGovern said having a mandatory one-call system is just good policy.
“A system like this has to be mandatory. There’s no choice. It’s really about public safety and worker safety,” she said.
Legislation for the recently passed Act was introduced in Ontario’s legislature as a private member’s bill by Sarnia-Lambton Conservative MPP Bob Bailey and Paul Miller, NDP MPP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek.
“They really lived and breathed this. It’s nice to see all three parties come together on non-partisan politics,” said McGovern.
Though there is no date for the implementation of the bill, Douglas hopes to move as quickly as possible and that it will achieve Royal Assent this fall.
McGovern would like to see a number of regulations identified by Christmas, which she says is doable.
The bill also requires a locate in five days in most cases.
To create a strong one-call system in Ontario, Douglas said it needs to be mandatory, there needs to be an education program and enforcement. The education program will be conducted by ORCGA’s Dig Safe program. Enforcement will be conducted by traditional regulators such as the Ministry of Labour, the Technical Standards & Safety Authority and the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association.
Getting on board with the call centre may seem more difficult than it really is, said Douglas.
“Owners may feel a little shy because they haven’t got their mapping digitized, the call centre can work with anything,” he said.
“They will start to gather what is actually underground. As the years go by that becomes a good library of sorts,” added McGovern.
When the ORCGA began in 2004, Douglas said Canada was already far behind the U.S. where all of the 50 states had already adopted similar legislation.
ORCGA estimates annual damage to underground infrastructure currently amounts to more than $39 million in Ontario.
One Call systems exist in Québec, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia and in the City of Saint John, N.B. Ontario is the first jurisdiction in Canada to adopt one-call legislation.
“I don’t think it’s going to be the last one. I think you’ll see other provinces move to implement this,” said Douglas.
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