Call Before You Dig: The Truth About Archaeology and Utility Locates

Emily and Ryan excavating near buried utilities marked with red flags.
Emily and Ryan carefully excavating near buried utilities marked with red flags.

When you think about archaeology, risk management and health and safety are not often the first words that come to mind. But they are for us. All of our fieldwork must be done as safely as possible. From worrying about poison ivy and mosquito bites, to vehicular traffic when we work near roads; the health and safety of all of our staff is paramount.

Generally speaking, the closer we work to urban areas, the more complex the buried utility infrastructure becomes.

Buried gas, electricity, telecommunication and water  lines are the last thing we want to find at the end of our shovels. In order to avoid these, we always get their location information from Ontario One Call and a private locate contractor before we dig.  It’s the law, and more importantly, it keeps us all safe.

The Ontario Underground Infrastructure Notification System Act (2012), the Ministry of Labour, the Technical Standards and Safety Authority and the Electrical Safety Authority, all require that before drilling or digging with mechanical equipment, using a shovel, hand augering, or even driving stakes to plot out excavation areas, all underground utilities in the work area must be located. The Occupational Health and Safety Act states that, “the employer who is responsible for the excavation shall request the owner of the service to locate and mark the service” (O. Reg. 213/91, 228 (1)).

When it comes to private properties, it is important to have a private utility locator whom you trust to properly identify all utilities. At ASI, we use OnSite Locates to determine all the utilities on our work sites before we even think about sticking a shovel in the ground.  Recently, President of OnSite Locates, Grant Piraine, and a few members of his staff came to ASI’s head office to give a 4-Hour Utility Locate Awareness Workshop for utility locates specific to our industry. (Thanks, Grant!)

Buried utilities marked by orange paint.
Buried utilities marked by orange paint.

Private utility locate companies typically employ Electromagnetic Locate equipment to trace and mark utilities. If the private locator identifies a limitation with respect to any specific utility onsite, they generally suggest using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), hand digging or Daylighting to help reduce the risk of striking a utility.

ASI’s project managers are now requesting locates upon confirmation for all projects requiring test pit survey and/or excavation. In general, complete public and private locates can take approximately 10-15 days to complete. Once the locates have been reviewed with the field director, the fieldwork is scheduled. Our risk adverse mentality and safety record attest to the dedication of ASI staff: none of us thought we would be submitting locate requests when we were studying archaeology in university!

And that’s the truth about locates. Required by law, locates help keep our staff members safe and aid in the successful completion of our projects and the smooth delivery of information to our clients.

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