ESA Late Locates: The Conversation Continues

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the April town hall, Late Locates: Partnering with Notification Centers. After listening to the recording, I would like to share information about what Info-Excavation has put in place over the last few years in Quebec to help solve this issue. First, a few background facts:

• In the province of Quebec, there is no legislative framework related to damage prevention. The only rule in existence is for contractors to verify if underground infrastructures are present prior to excavating. Unfortunately, this rule does not have the force of law. Because of this, working hand-inhand with the various players in the industry was essential.

• The Quebec Chapter of the CGA has been integrated in Quebec’s notification center in the past 10 years, and Info-Excavation has become Quebec’s damage prevention center.

• Info-Excavation also serves the Atlantic Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador. However, processes may differ depending on the province.

• For many years, the standard in Quebec for drawing a sketch made by the locator needed to include specific measurements. These measurements calculated from fixed points not impacted by the excavation work, serve to indicate the precise location of the underground infrastructure. The sketch is then given to the requester.

The following improvements were made over the years:

• Info-Excavation now provides a screening service among its range of additional services. It provides a second level of analysis, after the analysis made by the Notification Center. It not only allows a much more accurate analysis of the location of the members’ infrastructure; it also can deliver a larger number of clearance notices to locate requests. This, in turn, greatly reduces the number of infrastructures that need to be located.

• Several members have started to answer locate requests using maps rather than doing a locate on-site. Some of these owners have entrusted Info-Excavation with the responsibility of answering locate requests on their behalf by sending a map of their underground infrastructures located within the zone where the contractor plans to do his excavation work. This is not a new way of doing things; it is widely used in Europe and Australia.

• Since 2012, integrating a Google sketch in the locate request creation process is mandatory – virtual white lining. Since then, all locate requests must include a sketch reflecting the work area. This provides a clearer and more accurate view of the work area. Therefore, owners of underground infrastructures and locators need only answer locates where infrastructures are within the excavation area.

• With specific measurements provided in the sketch, contractors now have accurate information about where the underground infrastructure is located. This allows the contractor to remark the location of the infrastructure as often as needed once the markings are removed from the hard surface. Moreover, according to Best Practices, the contractor is responsible for protecting the marks.

• Unless an exception was made, upon receiving a revalidation request from the contractor, the owner will not send a locator to make new markings, but will instead send a copy of the original sketch that was made, including measurements. A revalidation request does not translate into the need for a locator to return on-site to redo the markings, which has a significant impact on his workload.

• We have reduced the area where a sketch is needed. The work area cannot be longer than 400 yards. Should the job site be longer, a process will draw a sketch 400 yards at a time until the rest of the work zone is sketched. In the end, the number of sketches will produce an equivalent number of locate requests. The benefit of this approach is that many clearance notices can be sent. A locator will be sent only when infrastructures are present within the work zone indicated in the locate request, again reducing the locator’s workload.

• Owners have revised their security zone (buffer zone/tolerance zone) on either side of their infrastructures, better reflecting what is found in the field. By reducing these security zones from 60 to 20 feet or even less, Info- Excavation has been able to increase the number of clearance notices, resulting in less locates and therefore increasing the availability of locators.

• All locate requests, without exception, can have a validation period of up to a maximum of 180 days. To do this, the excavation’s start date and its completion date must be written on the locate request. A program runs every night to ensure the security of underground infrastructures. It verifies the daily network updates made by the owners (when they either add or modify their network) and the excavation start and completion dates mentioned in the active locate requests. This verification ensures that the updated networks are not at risk of conflicting with the scheduled excavation work. If this is the case, the contractor and member will be notified according to an established process.

• Seven days before the end of the locate request’s validation period, the contractor will receive a notice asking if the excavation work is completed. If not, he will need to revalidate the locate request. The same answers as those received previously will be sent and again, the locator will not need to redo the locate.

• A new feature is now offered. It is possible for a general contractor, an engineering firm, a municipality, etc. to transfer its initial request and all relevant documents, such as the answers received from the owners to another subcontractor. This prevents the need for each contractor to make his own request. Since answers from owners have already been received, it enables everyone to start the excavation work faster. Consequently, the owner member or the locator do not need to process the request once again. They can therefore focus their attention on new requests.

Although these initiatives have greatly helped the cause of locates and the associated deadlines, much needs to be done to reduce the large number of requests received daily. We are currently working with our industry’s stakeholders to improve the entire process. Furthermore, we are working with our government to improve the province’s regulatory framework related to the damage prevention process as a whole and to ensure public health and safety as well as the health and safety of all workers. These are some of the initiatives we have put in place over the past few years to help both contractors and owners reduce their workloads and reduce delays in having underground infrastructures located. In the absence of adequate legislation, we need to simplify the damage prevention process so it is seen as a win-win situation by everyone. Without legislation, we can only try to convince excavators that making a locate request is the right thing to do. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Comments and opinions in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of dp-PRO.

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