Buried Pipeline
& Utility Locating Services

Explaining Ground Disturbance

Ground Disturbance has become a frequently used term amongst an array of groups and individuals in the last few years. This is good news! Everyone from a landscaper/homeowner to the Excavation contractors out there should know and be very aware of the Ground Disturbance that they engage in almost on a daily basis.

What is Ground Disturbance?

According to The Alberta Pipeline Act Ground Disturbance is any work, operation or activity that results in a disturbance of the earth except:

  • Cultivation less than 450 mm in depth or
  • A disturbance of the earth less than 300 mm in depth provided it does not reduce the earth cover over a buried pipeline to a height less than that provided when the pipeline was installed.Agricultural activities such as subsoil aeration and mechanical rock picking are considered ground disturbances if they disturb the earth to a depth of 450mm or more.

Agricultural activities such as subsoil aeration and mechanical rock picking are considered ground disturbances if they disturb the earth to a depth of 450mm or more.

The Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Code states that ground is disturbed if a work operation or activity on or under the existing surface results in a disturbance or displacement of the soil, but not if the disturbance or displacement is a result only of:

  • routine, minor road maintenance or
  • cultivation to a depth of less than 450 mm below the ground surface over a pipeline or
  • hand digging to a depth of not more than 300 mm below the ground surface, so long as it does not permanently remove cover over a buried facility.


dykDamage Prevention is a shared Responsibility

There are so many times that we’ve heard individuals say, “Oh I’m not disturbing the ground or Ground Disturbance doesn’t apply to the little work I’m doing. I’m only planting a tree or I’m just having to put a couple fence posts in or anchors for my tarp shed”.

These words spoken are not uncommon to our ears at 3-D and our job is to help guide those through the damage prevention process by performing our services to our clients whether be the Homeowner or the Project Coordinator on a Main Line Pipeline Project.

3-D will facilitate and manage the One Call ground disturbance process from start to finish. Not familiar with the One Call System? No, problem. From ground disturbance training to clearance on site, we are there to help.

Our Locate Technicians are all trained in Ground Disturbance at a Supervisory Level and will gladly help:

  • Submit the One Call on your behalf
  • Communicate with facility owner designates and meet with them if required on site
  • Receive the One Call responses and clearances
  • Manage conflict or crossing issues and provide you with a complete package so you know that you have ensured all utility owners have not only been notified, but have located their facilities in relation to your scope of work.
  • We have assisted with this process time and time again for our Clients on endless projects and have taken many phone calls to just simply explain to the concerned, local homeowner the Ground Disturbance and One Call Process for their ease of mind.

What are some activities that disturb the ground?

It is always interesting when you have a list put before you of some examples of activities that disturb the ground. There usually is always one that you never considered before. Activities that disturb the ground include:

  • digging
  • ditch shaping
  • excavation
  • grading and contouring
  • trenching
  • topsoil stripping
  • plowing pipe or cable
  • land leveling
  • vertical drilling
  • tree planting
  • hydrovacing
  • blasting and vibroseis
  • horizontal directional drilling
  • mechanical rock picking
  • vertical and horizontal auguring
  • subsoil aeration or stabilization
  • tunneling boring or pipe pushing
  • driving fence posts
  • cutting fire breaks
  • driving bars, rods, pins, or anchors

What does OSHA / OH&S require before any ground disturbance takes place?

Whether the ground disturbance is to take place on public or private land, the Occupational Safety & Health Code requires that ALL buried facilities potentially in conflict with the ground  disturbance be identified & their horizontal alignments marked out before the ground disturbance begins. The requirement to have the locations of ALL buried facilities marked applies to the ENTIRE digging community, NOT just contractors. Making arrangements to have locates done should be part of the job planning process, big or small.



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In the end our job at 3-D Is to Prevent Damage to the buried Pipelines and Utilities and most importantly to yourself and the people working around and with you. We do not want to see anyone seriously injured due to the lack of knowledge or not practicing proper Ground Disturbance Processes on their worksite. Call us we are here to Help.

Image of 3-D Line Locating integrity management and pipeline integrity management program.3-D Line Locating Ltd is a privately owned Buried Pipeline and Utility Locating company. For over 20 years, we have been at the forefront of the Damage Prevention industry in Western Canada. Although the industry has changed significantly over the last 20 years, we have been very fortunate to have been at the leading edge of the evolution and still maintain the highest levels of quality, accuracy, consistency and customer satisfaction in our industry.

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