After months of being blanketed by snow, the Capital Region is pulling back the covers for its unofficial other season - construction season. But before people grab their shovels and fire up earth moving equipment, the Edmonton Area Pipeline & Utility Operators’ Committee (EAPUOC) is sharing a timely reminder to dig safely.

With the warmer temperatures comes a natural urge to get started on projects that have been marinating all winter,” says Melissa Pierce, EAPUOC Board Member. “It’s quite fitting that April is Dig Safe Month because we know there will be a lot of work kicking off over the next few weeks.”

Whether it’s roadwork, infrastructure projects, home improvements or a new garden, EAPUOC wants everyone to be mindful of the risks underfoot. Dig Safe Month aims to raise awareness about proactive digging practices that can improve safety and reduce damage to underground infrastructure.

“Our communities are home to impressive networks of cables, pipelines and other subterranean networks that deliver essential services,” explains Pierce. “As an industry member organization, we work with and support organizations such as Alberta One Call to raise awareness of our underground linear infrastructure to encourage residential, commercial and industrial diggers to connect with Alberta One Call before any earth is disturbed regardless of how big or small the project may be.”

Established in 1984, Alberta One-Call is a non-profit corporation that helps contractors and homeowners stay safe. With an online click or a call to 1-800-242-3447, anyone can request the marking of gas, power, cable and other underground utilities. EAPUOC works closely with Alberta One Call by providing safe digging best practice guidelines and a central access to industry members in the region that have underground assets.

“A hasty thrust of a shovel can have serious and costly consequences,” says Pierce.

“We know people are eager to get the job done, but taking a moment to access Alberta One-Call’s free service can save lives and limit potential damage.”

In addition to personal injury, accidental damages to underground infrastructure can put neighbours and the broader community in danger. Digging without a locate can also cause widespread loss of essential services and leave you on the hook for expensive restoration costs as well as potential legal action.

“Clicking or calling before you dig is a simple way to reduce risk,” says Pierce. “After a location has been marked with flags or paint, contractors and homeowners will know what parts of the site can be safely excavated with caution and which areas should be avoided entirely.”

Unless otherwise directed, hand digging is also required within one metre of locate markings. This is because even the smallest nick or scratch to a buried facility can create a hazard both at the time of impact or well into the future. And while the infrastructure itself may handle the initial knock, damaged pipes and cables are more susceptible to corrosion.

“We know that some of the linear infrastructure in our rural and urban communities is buried just a few centimeters underground,” adds Pierce. “Our job is to remind everyone that even though it is out of sight, it shouldn’t be out of mind. Before you get your hands dirty, call or click Alberta One-Call.”