Energy & Power
Transmission & Distribution
Saskatchewan’s utilities aim to curb underground infrastructure damage
By Anthony Capkun
March 7, 2014 – SaskPower, SaskEnergy and SaskTel say they are expanding efforts in 2014 to reduce the number of incidents where damage occurs to buried power, natural gas and telecom lines. The three Crown utilities say they have seen, on average, a rising trend of infrastructure damage over the past five years, and want to reduce accidental contact with buried lines.
“Aside from service disruptions and the financial consequences of hitting an underground line, safety is a huge concern,” said Robert Watson, president and CEO at SaskPower. “Each time someone hits a powerline, it has the potential to result in serious injury or loss of life. Ideally, we want to see zero incidents. The more we can do to prevent any incidents when it comes to working near underground lines, the better.”
While requesting a line locate is a vital part of the safe digging process, it’s also important the Crown utilities and their line locate contractor provide timely information to anyone planning an excavation project, they admit.
Last year, SaskEnergy had 255 incidents where its buried lines were contacted, while SaskPower had 197 incidents, and SaskTel 585. All Crowns have seen an increase in buried line hits over the past five years. To reduce this level of damage, the Crowns are planning the following activities in 2014, in addition to damage prevention programs already in place:
• A targeted and enhanced Sask 1st Call public awareness campaign and development of a Sask 1st Call Mobile App.
• A pilot project involving ‘safety patrols’ to monitor construction activities in new Regina and Saskatoon subdivisions where increasing damage is occurring to buried infrastructure.
• Renewal of the contract for Magna Electric Corp. to perform joint line locating for all three Crown utilities. (According to the Crowns, a North American industry-leading practice has shown a safety improvement when one qualified technician locates multiple buried lines rather than several companies performing this service individually.)
“When safe digging is a responsibility shared by the Crown utilities, line locaters, contractors and homeowners, then an increase in construction activity will not result in an increase in damage to underground lines,” said Doug Kelln, president and CEO, SaskEnergy. “By working together during what will be another busy construction year, we improve public safety and reduce costly delays whether for major projects, or backyard home improvements.”