Estevan – The Saskatchewan Common Ground Alliance’s 30th anniversary contractor safety breakfasts came to Estevan on April 10, with about 120 in attendance at the Beefeater Plaza.
The breakfasts are held throughout the province each spring during breakup, providing a safety reminder to be careful by ensuring line location is done before any ground disturbance. This year’s message also talked about what to do if you strike an overhead powerline. As a celebration of the 30th anniversary, breakfasts are being held in 30 different locations.
Derrick Mann, SaskEnergy vice-president, engineering, integrity and construction, and SCGA board member spoke briefly before a video was shown highlighting several recent incidents. In these cases, no one was injured, but there was substantial impact.
In one incident on the east side of Regina, a contractor struck a natural gas line and several restaurants, a pub and a medical clinic had to be evacuated. As natural gas levels rose in a nearby building, power had to be shut off to 2,000 customers until the situation was rectified, lest the gas be set off in an explosion.
Another case saw a contractor putting in a water line for a new business cut a fibreoptic communications line, which was down for 24 hours. During that time, the impacts were as broad as businesses unable to do transactions to kids being unable to do homework.
That contractor thought he could just burry it and fill up the hole. He was found out, and the cost to him was estimated to be 10x to 15x any money they might have saved otherwise.
Yorkton’s fire chief recounted how a man replacing his fence put the new fence post right beside the originals, but that was enough to hit an underground powerline that serviced the house, causing a fire to start in the house. It also shut down the road between the local hospital and a school. The fire department’s bill alone was a minimum of $3,000.
Overall, Saskatchewan had 480 line strikes last year, the majority of which were natural gas and telecom strikes.
After the breakfast, Mann said, “The goal here is more education. We’re trying to get out. We have 30 breakfasts across the province this year in April, which is our safe digging month. We’re really trying to hit home to the people doing the excavating, making sure they’re using Sask FirstCall, they’re getting locates and working safely. That’s really the message.
“It’s really simple, but it costs lives every year, it costs a lot of damage to infrastructure, and it takes a lot of time and effort if people aren’t doing the right thing,” he said.
Attendees were given this year’s safety pamphlet and a sticker indicating staking colour conventions.
While Sask 1st Call has 92 member companies, but participation is voluntary and not legislated. Thus, there are some exceptions, a notable one being Access Communications. While the were represented in the video, they are not part of Sask 1st Call.
“We work with them, try to encourage them, but it’s ultimately up to them to make that decision to come on. We obviously welcome them. The more companies we get on that 1st Call, the less companies people have to research who else is in the area,” Mann said.
The SCGA is working with the government, both provincially and nationally to make this a legislative requirement. With all affected companies on board, that would make it a “one call” system instead of a “first call” system.
A line locate is done for free, but Sask 1st Call must be notified two days in advance. It can be done online at www.sask1stcall.com, there’s an app, and the number is 1-866-828-4888. On the SaskTel Mobility network, you can also use #4888.