Opinion: 68 Burnaby idiots have damaged gas lines. Just stop it

Chris Campbell

FortisBC sent me an interesting and depressing stat this morning.

The company is hosting a demonstration on the proper way to dig around natural gas lines, but I can’t make it.

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I can tell you that in the last 18 months in Burnaby, there were 68 “damages” to FortisBC natural gas infrastructure because local residents were too stupid to research safe digging practices.

FortisBC is raising awareness about what not to do and to look at why damages occur to the system and find ways to mitigate this risk by speaking with contractors all throughout the region about safe digging practices.

Here is the advice that FortisBC offers (I’ve included a handy video at the bottom):

“Whether you are working in your own yard or hiring landscapers or contractors, find out where the gas lines are before you dig and dig by hand to expose the line if you’re working within one metre of a gas line. It’s required by provincial laws and regulations and helps keep you safe.”

Dig by hand first

  1. Use the information you received from FortisBC to mark the location of buried gas lines on your site. You can mark the line with paint or flags. 
  2. When digging near this line, carefully dig by hand to expose the buried gas line. Do not use any power equipment within one metre of the gas line.
  3. Proceed with your project, avoiding the line.

Hiring a contractor to work on your property?

Use the following checklist before work begins and help keep everyone safe.

  • BC 1 Call ticket – keep in mind that if the contractor hits an underground natural gas line or other utility when digging, you could be liable for repair costs. Make sure they contact BC 1 Call at least two or three days before work starts to get a free map of FortisBC’s underground utilities on your property. Click on bc1c.ca or call 1-800-474-6886.
  • Liability insurance – ensure your contractor carries this (ask to see a copy) to help protect you in case they damage your property.
  • WorkSafeBC clearance letter – ensure the contractor you’re hiring is registered, and in good standing, with WorkSafeBC. Ask them for their WorkSafeBC clearance letter that will tell you their current standing.
  • Business licence – make sure the contractor has a licence for your city. If unsure, contact your city’s business licence office.
  • Permit – check to see if your project requires a permit by contacting your city’s permit office.
  • Better Business Bureau – check to see if your contractor is accredited with the Better Business Bureau. And even if they’re not, you can still find out their rating and if there’s been any complaints lodged against them. Visit bbb.org.
  • Property lines – know where your property line begins and ends to ensure you don’t dig on city property.

What if you still hit a gas line or smell gas?

Stop what you’re doing, shut off any power tools or machinery and call the FortisBC Emergency Line at 1-800-663-9911 (24 hours) or 911. Anyone who calls BC 1 Call, uses hand tools to dig and still damages a gas line may have repair costs forgiven.

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