Who this is for
This section is for any company, contractor or person working near a pipeline.
On this page
- Activities and equipment
- What is the safety zone
- For those living and working near pipelines
- Planning projects around pipelines
- Activities that do not need consent from the pipeline company
- Activities that need consent from the pipeline company
- What if plans change?
- Driving off a roadway in the safety zone
- Building or maintaining overhead lines
- Maintenance for an existing facility in the safety zone
- Know your responsibilities
- Agreeing to activities and costs
- Managing disagreements
- If you don’t follow the regulations
- Terms to know
- Other Resources
- Damage prevention resources
Activities and equipment
- building roads
- building or maintaining water and sewage utilities
- building drainage projects
- ploughed-in pipe
- horizontal directional drilling
- planting trees
- building fences
- installing utility poles
- crossing a right-of-way off an established road with vehicles or construction equipment
- building or maintaining overhead power lines inside the safety zone or over the right-of-way
List of equipment...
- dump trucks
You do not need consent to drive construction equipment on a public roadway. For information about driving off of a public road, see Driving off a roadway in the safety zone.
What is the safety zone
The safety zone (called the prescribed area in regulations), defined in the Damage Prevent Regulations (DPR) – Authorizations, extends 30 meters to each side from the centreline of the pipe. It is an area where extra precautions and authorization (written consent of the pipeline company or an Order issued by the Commission) is required before certain activities can occur.
Details about the safety zone and a description of the right-of-way...
Some federally regulated pipelines were buried at least 60 cm (2 feet) below the surface when they were constructed, and at least 130 cm (51 in) below travelled roads. Other pipes and cables may be at shallower depths. However, ground settling, erosion, and other activities can reduce the soil depth over the pipe. As a result, regulations restrict excavation such as digging or augering 30 cm (12 in) and deeper in the safety zone. The pipeline company may also notify you that certain areas must not be crossed with vehicles or equipment because they could affect safety or security.
Before you dig in the area 3 m(10 feet) on either side of the pipe, the pipeline company will provide oversight on how to dig this close to the pipe. Even a small nick in the pipe’s coating can cause corrosion and hazards for your safety, those around you, and the environment. Contact the pipeline company immediately if any equipment contacts the pipe.
Pipeline signs or markers are placed at visible locations along the pipeline route (in the right-of-way). The signs let you know that there are pipelines in the area, but they do not show the exact location of the pipeline.
The pipeline company will give you special instructions and provide oversight on how to dig very close to the pipe. In the regulations, this is within 3 m of the pipe. For safety, the pipeline company may have a larger area.
Even a small nick in the pipe's coating can cause corrosion and hazards for your safety, those around you, and the environment. Contact the pipeline company immediately if any equipment contacts the pipe.
Pipelines, utilities, and governments across Canada support one-call centres. One-call notification centres notify registered members (example: federally regulated pipeline companies), who send out technicians to map and mark all buried pipelines and cables in a planned work area. Go to Click Before You Dig for links to the one-call notification services in your region. Federally regulated pipelines must be located within 3 days.
The right-of-way is the strip of land for which a company has obtained the right to construct and operate a pipeline. The width of the right-of-way varies according to the size, routing, and number of lines. The area of the right-of-way is usually smaller than the safety zone. The pipe may not be in the exact centre of the right-of-way. If there is more than one pipeline in the right-of-way, the safety zone is measured from the outermost pipelines on each side.
For those living and working near pipelines
Know what's below. In addition to federally regulated pipelines, there may be other provincially and locally regulated pipelines and cables in your area. These facilities may include oil and gas field gathering pipes, gas distribution systems, fibre-optic cables, water and sewer lines, and electrical cables.
See the steps to take before starting any activity that disturbs the soil 30 cm (12 in) or deeper below the surface...
- Don't just dig. Plan ahead. It can take time to locate the pipes and cables and to get written consent, if needed.
- Look for pipeline marker signs in your area, and check land records for easements.
- Contact Click Before You Dig or a one-call centre to locate underground pipes and cables. You may need to be on site when the technician comes.
- Get written consent from the pipeline company before any ground disturbance that is 30 cm (12 in) or deeper.
- You must give everyone the safety information they need: contractors and subcontractors and employees. To learn more, read Your Field Responsibilities.
Planning projects around pipelines
Consult pipeline companies early in the design phase for large construction projects. They will provide information on how to plan around pipelines.
Examples of construction projects...
Subdivisions: if there is a pipeline through a neighborhood, this could be used as a green space.
Roads and utilities: you must work with the pipeline company to plan for road crossings over a pipeline. The pipeline company will review the location to plan for utilities.
Municipal landscaping: You need written consent from the pipeline company before you plan to landscape on the right-of-way.
Activities that do not need consent from the pipeline company
Some activities do not require consent. These activities do not disturb the ground, or do not go 30 cm (12 in) or deeper into the ground. Maintenance work that does not disturb the ground 30 cm (12 in) or deeper does not need consent.
This maintenance work includes:
- adjusting valves, valve boxes, manholes
- sidewalk panel replacement, curb removal
- saw-cut less than 30 cm (12 in) deep
- road-milling and patching less than 30 cm (12 in) deep (large or small project)
- planting less than 30 cm (12 in) deep
- sign posts less than 30 cm (12 in) deep
You must inform contractors working for you about their responsibilities. Find details here:
- Pipeline Damage Prevention – Ground Disturbance, Construction and Vehicle Crossings: Your Responsibilities
- To read the regulation, see Section 8 – Obligations – existing facilities
Activities that need consent from the pipeline company
Before starting any projects or work within the safety zone or near the pipeline right-of-way, you must get written consent from the pipeline company.
You will need consent to:
- dig 30 cm (12 in) or deeper in the safety zone
- build a facility such as a playground near the right-of-way
- build fences and dig fence posts inside the safety zone
- drive vehicles and construction equipment across a pipeline off of a public roadway
For examples of construction equipment, go to Activities and equipment.
For a definition of “facility,” go to Terms to know.
For the regulation, read Section 7 – Authorization – of construction
What if plans change?
If you need to dig 30 cm (12 in) or deeper, or if your projects or work bring you closer to the pipeline, this is called a scope change.
If the ground disturbance will be 30 cm (12 in) or deeper, or extends closer to the pipeline, work must stop. Contact the pipeline company to perform a safety assessment of the activity before continuing.
Driving off a roadway in the safety zone
You must have consent from the pipeline company to drive vehicles and construction equipment off of a roadway:
- in the safety zone, or
- over the right-of-way
It is prohibited to do so without written consent from the pipeline company. You could face penalties or fines.
Before crossing the pipeline off a roadway, contact the pipeline company. Give them the information below:
- a list of the vehicle classes
- axle weights
- tire pressure or ground pressure
The pipeline company will use this information to create a vehicle management plan. This will prevent damage to the soil or to the pipeline.
Review the vehicle management plan with your staff regularly. Work with the pipeline company to plan long term pathways where equipment can cross safely.
Contact the pipeline company for help if the soil conditions pose a risk of ruts caused by construction equipment. Ruts that are 30 cm (12 in) or deeper are a ground disturbance. These ruts could affect the personal safety of staff, or damage the pipeline or its coating.
Building or maintaining overhead lines
Contact the pipeline company before building or maintaining overhead lines that go over the safety zone. Have the pipeline company give you safety practices regarding the pipe.
Make a locate request, and have the pipeline company mark their pipeline. Make sure you understand what the markings mean.
Once you have the safety practices and the pipeline marked, you can proceed with your projects or work.
- Make sure you read: Pipeline Damage Prevention – Ground Disturbance, Construction and Vehicle Crossings: What Activities Do Not Require Consent?
- Damage Prevention Regulations – Authorizations:
Maintenance for an existing facility in the safety zone
If the maintenance work requires you to dig 30 cm (12 in) or deeper, make a locate request. The pipeline company will have a field representative give you instructions for your projects or work. You must follow the instructions during the activity to keep the pipeline safe and secure.
You will need the pipeline company’s consent to:
- disturb the ground within the safety zone 30 cm (12 in) or deeper
- cross into the safety zone with vehicles or construction equipment
- interfere with or alter the pipe
More details on maintaining a facility are in these two sections of Pipeline Damage Prevention – Ground Disturbance, Construction and Vehicle Crossings:
Know your responsibilities
For detailed responsibilities, read Pipeline Damage Prevention – Ground Disturbance, Construction and Vehicle Crossings: Your Responsibilities
Agreeing to activities and costs
The CER encourages pipeline companies and contractors to agree to:
- the terms of work
- projects or work within the safety zone, and/or
- crossing a pipeline with construction equipment
The pipeline company must give written consent for certain activities within the safety zone. Costs that result from authorized projects or work should be addressed by both sides.
If the pipeline company and contractors are not able reach an agreement on costs or terms of work, they can seek help from the CER.
There are two ways to manage disagreements:
- Using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
- Filing a Section 335 application. (Section 335 is a new section of the CER Act. It deals with how to apportion costs related to the authorized construction or ground disturbance near federally regulated pipelines.)
Read about options for managing disagreements...
How to resolve disputes with the pipeline company
If you and the pipeline company cannot come to an agreement on a dispute:
- you or the pipeline company can contact the CER for assistance
- the CER offers an Alternative Dispute Resolution service outside of the formal regulatory or hearing process
This is a voluntary and confidential way for those involved to resolve disputes. To learn more, visit the Alternative Dispute Resolution page.
Cost apportionment addresses costs directly incurred as a result of authorized construction and ground disturbance. It relates to negotiating terms of work and who pays for associated costs.
If you are working near a federally regulated pipeline, and cannot reach an agreement with the pipeline company, you can contact the CER for assistance. The CER can provide assistance and help parties resolve the matter through either:
- Alternative Dispute Resolution, or
- Adjudication by the Commission (a section 335 application)
For more information, see Guiding Principles for Cost Apportionment.
Administrative Monetary Penalties
The CER may impose financial penalties on individuals or companies for not complying with regulations. For individuals, the maximum daily penalty is $25,000 for each violation. For companies, the maximum daily penalty is $100,000 per violation. Each day a violation continues is considered a separate violation. This means that separate penalties could be issued per infraction, per day, with no maximum total financial penalty.
Read more about the Administrative Monetary Penalty Regulations.
Violations of CER can also lead to either a summary conviction or conviction on an indictment. The penalties for these convictions are:
- on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding $100, 000 and or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 1 year or to both;
- on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding $1 million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to both.
If you don't follow the regulations
If the regulations are not followed, critical safety issues may occur, either immediately or over time. For example, a person may strike the pipe while conducting an activity near a pipeline if they do not make a locate request or contact the pipeline company for details. The pipe may rupture, or the coating on the pipe may be damaged. The coating on a pipe is important because it is the first defense against corrosion.
Violating the regulations can lead to fines and penalties. Damage to the pipe or its coating, regardless of whether there was a release of product or not, must be reported to the pipeline company. The pipeline company must report damage or contact to the CER.
Ensure you follow the regulations...
An activity is unauthorized and illegal if the regulations are not followed.
You must get consent and safety information from the pipeline company for:
- an activity that causes a ground disturbance in the safety zone
- constructing a facility near a pipeline
- driving across a pipeline off a roadway with vehicles or construction equipment
The CER may enforce against unauthorized activities for environmental protection and the safety of all involved.
Terms to know
These terms have definitions specifically for damage prevention.
Details on terms to know...
A ground disturbance is anything that moves or penetrates the ground.
Ground disturbance is any activity within the safety zone that involves:
- agricultural cultivation to depths of 45 cm (18 in) or more or deeper below the surface of the ground, or
- the soil otherwise being disturbed or displaced to a depth of 30 cm (12 in) or deeper, or resulting in a reduction of the soil cover provided over the pipeline to a depth that is less than the cover provided when the pipeline was constructed
It may not be possible to determine the original depth of soil cover provided when the pipeline was constructed. If the activity results in the reduction of the current depth of earth cover over the pipeline, it is a ground disturbance.
Activities in this case are anything that cause a ground disturbance. For examples:
- tree planting
- digging fence posts
- plowing to install underground infrastructure
- blasting/use of explosives
For more information about ground disturbance activities, read Pipeline Damage Prevention – Ground Disturbance, Construction and Vehicle Crossings.
When building a facility, if you are digging 30 cm (12 in) or deeper into the safety zone, you must get the pipeline company's consent.
In the regulations, a facility can be:
- structures (more examples are in Structures)
- highway, private road, or railway
- irrigation ditch, drain, or drainage system
- telephone line, telegraph line, telecommunication line
- line for the transmission of electricity
- a pipe for the transmission of hydrocarbons or any other substance
Some examples of structures include:
- skating rinks
- swimming pools
- any other structure
- placing or storing equipment (mobile or otherwise)
You can find more information about facilities in Guidance Notes – National Energy Board Regulations for Pipeline Damage Prevention:
Damage prevention resources
Organizations across Canada have joined to help you plan your work safely. Click any of the logos below to visit their sites and find out how they can help you.
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