multiVIEW was honoured to participate in the Dig Safe: Construction Safety in the GTA event, organized by the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA).
The event, which was held last Friday at the Toronto City Hall Council Chamber brought together utility owners, contractors, Locate Service Providers and representatives from municipalities, the National Energy Board, Ontario One Call, the Ministry of Labour, and the Electrical Safety Authority. The event provided a forum for key excavation stakeholders to discuss damage prevention challenges, and find strategies to improve collaboration with a goal to drive down occurrences of utility strikes.
The day kicked off with opening remarks from the City of Toronto’s Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, Executive Director of Engineering and Construction Services Michael D’Andrea, and Fire Chief Matthew Pegg. Their remarks touched on the importance of municipalities working closely together along with the ORCGA to protect underground infrastructure. Concerns were expressed over the fact that the City of Toronto saw a 30% increase in utility strikes in 2017 and that the City has the highest rate of damages across the province.
Fire Chief Pegg commented on the impact that utility strikes have on essential services – often diverting services including ambulances and fire trucks away from other emergency situations. As such, a reduction in utility strikes would improve safety across the city on many different levels. Lawyer Frank Zechner then discussed damage prevention from a legal standpoint and described how offenses related to damage prevention can be punishable by criminal, civil and common law.
The event then broke out into panels consisting of gas/oil, electric distribution/transmission, telecommunications, municipal infrastructure and safety. Key take aways included a discussion around ensuring that electric and telecommunication utilities remain a key area of focus along with gas utilities. Though strikes to gas utilities can cause the most immediate threat, and potentially a deadly threat, strikes to electric and telecommunication utilities can lead to vital loss of service across a large geographic area, significant direct and indirect costs, and negative downstream effects on hospitals, schools, businesses and residents.
multiVIEW’s Field & Training Supervisor, Scott Schreiber spoke about the impact of utility damages on vital services.
It was agreed that locates serve as the “eyes and ears” for excavators to perform work safely so it is critical for locates to be accurate and complete. The benefits of Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) were also discussed. Though it was agreed that implementing SUE on a project can add upfront costs, the process results in greatly reduced risk and lower overall costs by eliminating surprises at later stages of the project.
Douglas Lapp, Executive Director of the ORCGA concluded the event by reminding attendees that it was Dig Safe month and that everyone should play a role in keeping the conversation going. He mentioned that, along with many other initiatives, the ORCGA is going to continue to expand the annual DIRT Report to include more granular data that will support a deeper understanding of the root causes of utility damage.