Every year, thousands of buried facilities are accidentally damaged across Canada. It’s not a new phenomenon – a watermain break, an electrical outage in one neighborhood or another. You might even see it on the news; a pipeline leaks and affects the radius of farmland, the local wildlife, and the neighboring town. It happens, and most us don’t even take notice. However, these incident’s effects aren’t always so easily brushed off. They can lead to significant environmental impact, injury, and even death.
In 2013, in Toronto, a harrowing 90-minute, 60-firefighter rescue team saved two construction workers from a collapsed trench. The endings of these stories aren’t always so lucky, however. In the same month as the two construction workers were rescued, a worker died in Westmount, Quebec. He was engulfed when a wooden retaining wall collapsed into the trench he was working in, succumbing to his injuries later. In 2014, a Toronto sewer service installer didn’t even make it out of the trench before he perished, and was buried by a slab of concrete (Kucharsky, 2014).
We can say that those two workers in Toronto in 2013 were lucky, or that the sewer service installer was unlucky. The truest statement, however, is that these situations were entirely preventable. It wasn’t just the luck of the draw.
Luck vs. Compliance
By implementing and complying with proactive ground disturbance damage prevention processes, your organization can ensure that your employees work safe, and leave their sites as hazard-free as when they entered. If your organization, or any of your subcontractors, intend to engage in ground disturbance, be proactive and do your due diligence; ensure that you have an effective damage prevention program, and that it’s supported with proper training. You can help your employees learn how to work safe, and go home alive.
Ground Disturbance Basics
A ground disturbance is any work, operation, or activity that results in a disturbance of the earth, or that result in a reduction of the initial installation cover over a buried facility. This industry-adopted term is an inclusive catch-all for activities that disturb the ground, replacing the narrower term, excavation. According to CSA Z247 Damage Prevention for the Protection of Underground Infrastructure, you’re disturbing the ground if you’re: