5th Annual CCGA Damage Prevention Symposium: Looking Ahead to Prevent Damage to Underground Infrastructure in Canada

Every year, ground disturbers, utilities providers and equipment suppliers meet at the Canadian Common Ground Alliance’s (CCGA) national Damage Prevention Symposium to participate in Canada’s unified voice on damage prevention. Members from the many  organizations and associations who share the responsibility of damage prevention offer their experiences and learn from others in the industry about the latest approaches, developments,
challenges and newest technologies which contribute to preventing damage to
underground infrastructure in Canada.

To celebrate Canada’s 150th year, the CCGA held their 5th Annual Damage Prevention Symposium in Ottawa, September 19-21. The symposium, with more than 220 attendees, was held at the Delta Hotels Ottawa City Centre.

“It is always inspiring to see the dedication and passion of our Canadian damage prevention partners,” said Mike Sullivan, Executive Director of the CCGA. “We are always encouraged by how many people from different stakeholder groups attend
our annual symposium.”

The symposium featured presentations on dealing with abandoned facilities, introducing damage prevention education to teenagers in grade school, the progress on damage prevention in Atlantic Canada, updates on federal damage prevention legislation, and how augmented-reality technology is being used to prevent damage.

“As our cities continue to grow, so does our need for electricity, water, natural gas,
internet and cell service,” said Nathalie Moreau, Chair of the CCGA. “Damaging a buried utility line affects everyone. Organizations from various industries are getting involved to reduce damages and some of the technologies we are seeing companies apply to this challenge are amazing.”

The Grey Cup
As the 2016–17 Safety Sponsor for the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, the CCGA brought the Grey Cup to the Symposium for the second year in a row. Official Keeper of the Cup, Jeff Mc- Whinney, reflected on the connection between Canadian football and damage prevention in Canada, and the values shared by excavators and Canadian football teams, including the importance of practice and teamwork.

“Our relationship with the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Grey Cup has helped raise damage prevention awareness in Canada,” said Mike Sullivan. “Every year, players in the Canadian Football League compete for this historic and unique trophy – one that is all our own. Their objective, regardless of which team they play for, requires training, practice, dedication, passion and teamwork – identical to how we will reach our objective of zero damages. It’s a part of Canada’s history; a symbol that Canadians recognize, whether they are a football fan or not. Being near the Grey Cup is an exciting, yet humbling, experience.”

A Reception at the House of Commons
Many of those attending the Damage Prevention Symposium this year were also invited to a reception at the House of Commons on Parliament Hill. The event was an opportunity to see the Grey Cup, but more importantly, attend an educational session about damage prevention in Canada and Bill S229, the Underground Infrastructure Safety Enhancement Act.

More than 150 guests attended the reception at the House of Commons, including more than two dozen federal MPs and many government staff.

Bill S-229 was adopted by the Senate of Canada in May 2017 and has now moved on to the House of Commons where debate is expected soon.

The bill would require owners of underground infrastructure that is federally regulated or located on federal land to register their buried assets with a notification center. It would also make it mandatory to contact a notification center before performing any ground disturbance activity, as well as require operators of underground infrastructure to respond to locate requests by providing an accurate location of their infrastructure, locating and marking the location on the ground, provide an accurate description of its location, or provide written confirmation that the ground disturbance will not affect their underground infrastructure.

Damage Statistics
The 2016 Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) report was introduced during the Damage Prevention Symposium and damage to underground  infrastructure is still estimated to cost Canadians $1 billion in societal costs each year.

These costs include more than the cost of repair. Societal costs also consider emergency response, environmental mitigation and restoration, business and service disruptions, loss of services, and evacuation.

The 2016 data indicates 47 damages occur, on average, every day in Canada; the CCGA believes the total is significantly higher. Reporting damages into DIRT is voluntary and as awareness increases, more damages will be reported which will escalate the total. “It’s a paradox right now,” says Sullivan. “Our primary goals are to increase damage prevention awareness and reduce damages. Yet for the  foreseeable future, increasing awareness will likely result in more damages  reported into DIRT. That’s not a bad thing. We are working to normalize damage
data relative to construction spending across Canada and hope to illustrate soon that damages are indeed going down.”

The CCGA invites all concerned stakeholders to join them October 28 through November 1, 2018 in Whistler, British Columbia for the 6t Annual Damage Prevention Symposium as they continue their journey to zero damages across Canada.

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