Ontario One Call Response Submission
Published on: 17/12/2013
The Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association (OSWCA) represents 800 member companies across Ontario including contractors, manufacturers, consulting engineers, and distributors. We pride ourselves on being champions of best practices in safety and water system management. Collectively, we perform over $1 billion per year in capital projects to ensure clean, safe drinking water and environmentally responsible wastewater treatment and disposal. Our work is in underground infrastructure and as such, the Ontario Underground Infrastructure Notification System Act, 2012 (Act) and its accompanying regulations/by-laws are incredibly important for our industry.
As we noted in a letter to Minister MacCharles, we appreciate all of the hard work that your Ministry has put into these proposed by-laws for Ontario One Call. In particular, we would like to commend Vanessa Rae for her consistent efforts to bring stakeholders together throughout this process. We have long advocated for a One Call system in the province, so we are grateful for your Ministry's ongoing work to help make this a reality. We believe this is an important item for the province to improve the safety regime for our workers and to improve business conditions for our member companies. Having had the opportunity to review the proposed by-laws for Ontario One Call and discuss it amongst our membership, we have a few issues that we would like to raise.
The first issue, which we have heard a number of criticisms about from our members, surrounds the make-up of the Compliance Committee. With five utility owners, one excavator, and one "other" making up this Committee, it is extremely unbalanced, offering too much influence to the utility owners. This structure does not allow for unbiased decision-making on compliance issues. It also does not account for all of the involved stakeholders in the compliance and safety aspects of proper locating. The Committee make-up, therefore, needs to be modified to make for a more fair and representative group.
We believe that it is unnecessary for the Compliance Committee structure to mirror the Board structure, as it is the stated intention of Ontario One Call to have a completely separate compliance system from the Board of Directors. Thus, the structure should have representatives from the following five groups, in order to achieve the greatest balance of opinion and outlook:
1. Utility Owners
3. Locate Service Providers
4. Government of Ontario (Ministry of Consumer Services or other representatives)
5. General Public (e.g. homeowner, commercial property owner, industrial property owner)
The voting structure could be the same as proposed for the Board of Directors (i.e. 20 points for each category of stakeholder, with total points equaling 100, requiring 51 points to achieve majority decision). This would ensure that the outlook and opinion of the Committee would be much less partisan, with the entirety of involved stakeholders being represented in this process, and each having an equal voice. The alternative, as presently included in the proposal, leans too much in favor of utility owners to be an effective body.
The second issue, which we have heard a similar number of concerns over, relates the "size of a locate," or better understood as the "extent of excavation." There needs to be a very explicit policy or guideline that regulates how much or how far a single locate request can include. We believe that a worksite excavation notice should allow for a contiguous work site of one kilometer (i.e. the amount of work a contractor can realistically complete within a five day period). Where this type of excavation is occurring in an occupied area (be it commercial, industrial, residential) in order to install a main line to feed individual properties, a single worksite locate request should be permitted to allow all work on individual properties to go on a single locate request within a one kilometer zone. This allowance would ensure that worksites are not held up while waiting for locate requests to be approved, by providing a contractor with a reasonable amount of project space to work on while any further locate requests are processed. Having a clearly defined policy on this issue will ensure that there is no room for interpreting the Act in an unintended manner.
There were a number of other issues raised by our members, which have been outlined below in a more truncated style for brevity sake:
• We have some concern over what appears to be a lack of government oversight over the One Call compliance process, once it is fully operational. Without specific government regulations (e.g. requiring any by-law change to be approved by the MCS) the One Call Board of Directors has full autonomy to modify the governing by laws/compliance rules/membership structure, etc. at any time. We believe that this is a loophole that needs to be closed.
Board of Directors
• We appreciate the spots created for representation from the excavator community, but believe that there should also be a sixth sub-group on the Board made up of government and/or civilian representatives. This will ensure greater transparency and public accountability.
o If the Act, as presently modelled, does not allow for this additional grouping to be created, consideration must be given to modifying the Act.
• The by-laws should explicitly note that Ontario One Call is limited in its capacities to fine excavators/utility owners to what is outlined in sections 5, 6, and, 7 of the Act.
o Specifically for excavators, it should be explicitly noted that One Call is limited to only section 7 of the Act for its enforcement capacities.
• Enforcement should be balanced. If inspectors hand out "administrative monetary amounts (AMAs)" to excavators for every contravention of the Act, then utility owners should be equaled issued AMAs for every contravention (i.e. every late locate).
Locate Service Provider (LSP) Requirements
• We believe that there is not enough detail provided on the requirements of the locate service providers. Specifically, we would like to see materials on the requirements related to accuracy of the locates, acceptable marking techniques, refreshing and/or re marking of the locates upon renewal/request, with dimensions and tie-ins shown on accompanying documents (sheets, drawings/sketches, reports).
• Given that it is the responsibility of the utility owner to ensure that locates are provided within the five-day timeline, there should be language included in the by-laws that indicates that appropriate numbers LSPs must be hired by utility companies. In the event that a utility owner repeatedly misses the five-day turnaround, there should be an escalating penalty ladder.
• We have some concern over the potential duplication of investigations and fines by the various government and arms-length regulatory bodies (MOL, College of Trades, TSSA, ESA, and now One Call). Jurisdictional issues and limiting the duplication of fines between all of these bodies must be worked out in advance of this system going live. We already have too many disruptions on our worksites, adding a new inspectorate into this mix will only further slow our work down.
Time-limits on Locates
• The explanatory note published by MCS along with the by-laws noted that there would be consideration at modifying the time limits for providing locates. We are against the watering down of this limit. In fact, we would like to see a robust enforcement of the five-day limit under the Act.
• The five-day limit is already the most generous of all of the One Call systems in North America, with the vast majority of systems (i.e. New York, Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania) requiring their locates in two or three days. As the five-day limit is explicitly noted in the Act, it should not be changed in the by-laws.
• As we previously noted during the oral consultation phase, the by-laws need to explicitly note that municipalities/utility owners are responsible for providing locates for both assumed and unassumed neighborhoods. Specifically for unassumed neighborhoods, it should be noted that the municipality/utility owner is responsible for providing the locates as soon as the infrastructure is installed, or at the very least, whenever revenue generation occurs on the asset.
We were very encouraged by the passage of the Act and by the consultation process that has taken place over the course of the last year. We are very passionate about this process as it will significantly impact the way that we do business, and as such, we want to see a fair and transparent system developed to govern this system.
We would be happy to discuss our comments with you in person in order to maintain an open dialogue on these issues. We would also welcome an opportunity to sit with the other involved stakeholder groups (be it through ORCGA or some other representational forum) to discuss all of the comments submitted on these issues.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Patrick McManus at OSWCA at 905-629-8819 or Patrick.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back to the news