Get the Real Dirt on Safety

Get the Real Dirt on Safety

Beneath your feet, on any city street or property line, there’s an underworld of infrastructure: everything from pipes that carry fuel to rows of cables that run electricity, landlines, internet – all the things that keep you connected and cozy in your home.

But if you hit one, disastrous things can happen. Even a minor scrape from a shovel or backhoe can cause a leak of pressurized gas. When it finds an ignition source, a tiny spark or flame, you get a catastrophic explosion – killing workers, injuring bystanders, destroying property and putting everyone at  great risk.

So before you dig, get the real dirt on safety.

If you excavate or contract with a building owner to excavate or perform ground disturbances, you’re obliged to abide by Ontario’s Fuels Safety regulations. Two incidents illustrate the compelling reasons why.

In July 2008, a residential explosion in Niagara Falls killed one occupant and injured another when a landscaper drove a bar into the ground, installing a ‘rail tie’ wall. The bar punctured a propane service line, running from the home to a pool heater, and the escaping gas migrated to the residence. The gas built up to an explosive level, and found a source of ignition. Another residential explosion two months later in Georgian Bluffs killed one occupant and injured another when a propane supply line was severed during construction activity.

Any activity that disturbs the soil, such as digging, driving bars in the ground, installing sprinkler systems, etc., could damage a pipeline. Depth of buried infrastructure may change over time due to erosion or changes in the landscape, so do not take any chances – even if your activity is shallow.

So what can you do?


  • Before you dig, get a free excavation locate – within five days. Call Ontario One Call, the provincial locate administrator, at 1-800-400-2255 and 24/7 Online.
  • How to Read A Locate – Click Here
  • Ontario One Call processes requests from both homeowners and contractors. They notify you of the underground infrastructure within the vicinity of the proposed excavation. Then a locate service provider marks the underground infrastructure in the areas to be excavated. This complete service is free of charge.
  • Locate markers only indicate the presence of a pipeline. They should not be used or relied upon to determine the exact location (as pipelines can shift with the freeze/thaw of the seasons). With that in mind, you must carefully hand dig within three feet of those markings as required by law under TSSA’s Excavation Guidelines.

TSSA recently adopted the new CSA Z247 Code for damage prevention to underground infrastructure – effective April 1, 2017. To align with this standard, TSSA is updating the current Excavation Guideline, which is under final review by stakeholders, including the Electrical Safety Authority. Highlights include:

  • updating definitions to align with CSA Z247, TSSA, ESA and Ontario One Call regulations;
  • accepting electronic locates as well as paper; and
  • adding CSA Z247 hyperlinks to guide the user.

Stay tuned for the updated TSSA/ESA Excavation Guideline.


April is Dig Safe month, the official start of the dig season. Practice safe excavation this month and always. Call before you dig.

The Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) coordinates several activities throughout April to promote safe digging. TSSA, ORCGA, Ontario One Call, and various industry stakeholders are collectively tackling the issue, but there is still a way to go. With your help we’ll keep the gas flowing, safely in the pipe where it belongs.

You dig?


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