On-Site Magazine

What are your obligations as an excavator?

By Enbridge Gas (SPONSORED)   

Construction Health & Safety

Accidentally hitting a natural gas line during an excavation is very dangerous and completely preventable. Here’s how to avoid serious risks and stay safe.

Unsafe digging is more common than you may think: on average, seven natural gas lines are damaged every day in Ontario as a result of not following safe digging guidelines.

“There have been incidents and close calls on job sites, unfortunately,” says Nectar Tampacopoulos, Manager, Linear Operations, Region of Peel. “There have been incidents when, even once a utility was exposed, the excavator wasn’t using safe practices—they were using a high hoe instead of hand digging around the line—and they’ve actually hit the live utility at times.”

For every construction project, it’s your responsibility to request a locate from Ontario One Call before you dig—it’s free and it’s the law. Once you have locates in hand, it’s important to follow safe digging practices around all utility lines and pipes to avoid an unsafe situation.


What are the consequences?

Let’s take a closer look at the consequences of damaging a natural gas line:

  • Seriously hurting yourself or coworkers.
  • Incurring expensive legal and repair costs, serious penalties and charges.
  • Losing productivity by bringing your project to a stop.
  • Jeopardizing future contracts and your reputation.
  • Interrupting natural gas service to the neighbourhood.


“My biggest incident was February of 2013. We had a line strike to an eight-inch steel high-pressure main on Highway 7 and Woodbine in Markham. We closed down Highway 7 for a number of hours, tied up emergency personnel during that time, air traffic was also shut down until we could make it safe and make our repair.”

Brandy White, Damage Inspector, Enbridge Gas

Top tips for a safe excavation

1. Have your locate information on-site

Your locator will provide you with a physical or digital locate sheet that shows the work area. They’ll also mark the area with flags and/or paint to identify the location of underground utilities.  Check that your locate sheet matches the flags/paint markings on the ground before starting any work.

2. Keep a safe clearance from locates

Keep a one-metre safety clearance on either side of your locate marks. This is known as the “tolerance zone”.

3. Always dig around a natural gas line by hand first

If you’re digging in the tolerance zone, you must use a shovel or hydrovac to carefully expose the natural gas line before digging with heavy equipment.

4. Support the natural gas line

Install a temporary steel or wood support system to prevent the natural gas line from bending or sagging during excavation.

5. Shore up appropriately

For deep trenches, place boards or other bracing against the excavation walls to prevent the trench from collapsing and damaging lines.

Questions about your locate?

If you have any doubts about your locate, don’t start digging—contact the locate service provider at the number on the locate as soon as possible to get clarification.

Access resources on our website and work directly with our Damage Prevention team on your job site.

What to do if you damage a natural gas line or smell gas

• Stop work and shut off all tools, machinery or equipment.

• Clear everyone from the area.

• Call 911.

• Contact Enbridge Gas immediately at 1-866-763-5427.

• Do not attempt to control or stop the gas from escaping.


Free checklist, work site cards and more resources

Download our free resources, read FAQs and find more helpful tips at:



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