Digging can be carried out by just about anyone, including homeowners, farmers, contractors, home builders, equipment operators, landscapers, land surveyors, developers, even urban and rural municipalities

By Shannon Doka

Under OH&S Regulations, the locations of underground utilities must be accurately established prior to breaking the ground surface where work is to be done, with any equipment, to a depth that may contact the underground utilities.

1: Who we are

The Saskatchewan Common Ground Alliance (SCGA) works with industry stakeholders and the digging community to promote effective damage prevention and safe excavation practices, with the goal of reducing damages to buried utilities.

Membership in the SCGA is open to anyone with a genuine interest in reducing damages to the underground infrastructure. We all share in that responsibility. We are currently funded by 83 corporate members.

The fact that underground infrastructure(s) are buried not far from the ground’s surface increases the risk of accident during excavation or rehabilitation work. Despite all efforts made to increase awareness on the importance of exercising vigilance during excavation work, damages still occur too often.

There are six other Regional Common Ground Alliances, located in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

Our national organization in Canada is the Canadian Common Ground Alliance. The largest one in North America is the Common Ground Alliance in the United States (CGA).

2: What we do

The SCGA works alongside Sask 1st Call in promoting “Click Before You Dig!” and “Dig Safe!”

Sask 1st Call is the “Before You Dig” location-screening and notification service for contractors, landowners and homeowners who are planning all types of digging or excavating. Once contacted, Sask 1st Call will issue line-locate request notifications to subscriber companies to notify them of the planned ground disturbance. The affected companies will ensure their underground facilities are clearly marked before work starts. Sask 1st Call benefits Saskatchewan people by reducing the number of requests an excavator needs to make to underground facility owners when planning to dig or excavate, in addition to protecting the environment and the integrity of essential services. Sask 1st Call will screen and/or notify many subscriber companies with just one point of contact.

3: Where

Throughout Saskatchewan, there are thousands of kilometres of underground infrastructure. In fact, underneath much of our farmland lies buried pipeline and utilities. These utilities may carry natural gas or oil, electricity, communication lines or water. Any one of these utilities struck during a farming operation can cause dangerous consequences for you, your family, tenants, hired hands, your neighbours, your community and the environment, possibly impacting your farm for years.

4: When

Sask 1st Call is the first contact you should make. However, there may be other companies who have underground facilities in your work area that are not subscribers to Sask 1st Call. Excavators may need to work through land titles, municipalities, cities and towns, to find those unregistered with Sask 1st Call. The excavator (contractor, landowner, homeowner) is responsible to notify those companies of your proposed excavation and locate or hire someone to find landowner (privately owned) facilities.

You should also understand that you are not clear to excavate until all Sask 1st Call subscribers have been notified and have located their facilities in your work area or advised you to proceed. It is the excavator’s responsibility not to damage the facilities, and placing a call to Sask 1st Call does not remove that responsibility.

Prior to any work being done, excavators must be aware that privately (e.g. landowners with services after the meter) buried facilities may exist within a work area, and they are generally responsible by law to locate those facilities or hire someone to locate them.

5: Why

Year after year, the societal costs related to damages are significant. In Canada, this type of cost is estimated to be over $1 billion per year. They reflect both direct costs (e.g., cost to repair damaged underground infrastructures) and indirect costs (e.g., loss of productivity due to downtime resulting from damages) including but not limited to:

➥     Injury and potential loss of life

➥     Service disruption

➥     Deployment of emergency services

➥     Evacuation

➥     Loss of product

➥     Environmental impact and mitigation

➥     Economic impact

➥     Work delays

➥     Administrative and legal costs

Whether you are a facility owner/operator, locator, design professional, excavator/contractor or other stakeholder, ensuring the safety of those who work or live in the vicinity of underground facilities and protecting our vital services is everyone’s responsibility.

For more information about the SCGA go to scga.ca or email [email protected].

Shannon Doka is the Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Common Ground Alliance

Published in PIPELINE OBSERVER Spring 2020


The Cost!

The cost of damage to underground infrastructures is estimated to be over $1 billion per year.

  • More than 47 damages occurred per work day.
  • The total number of damages Canada wide, totalled 11,693, which is 2.6% more than in 2017.
  • Natural gas and telecommunication facilities were affected in 82% of damages, 42% and 40% respectively.


  • Hoe/trencher was the most common equipment type used in damages (68%). Equipment type was omitted in almost one third (29%) of reported damages
  • Work on water and sewer systems accounted for 31% of damages.
  • The most common known root cause of damages was excavation issue (38%).


Recall: Note that damages are reported to DIRT on a voluntary basis and thus do not reflect the total number of damages that take place in a year in Canadian provinces.




Pipeline Observer


Landowner-driven, CAEPLA advocates on behalf of farmers, ranchers, and other rural landowners to promote safety and environmental protection through respect for your property rights.