• Sask 1st aims to halt underground cable damage


    After a successful first year the Sask 1st Safety Patrol is ready to expand.

    © Herald photo by Jason Kerr.

    Safety patroller Gil Lapointe was in Prince Albert on Wednesday as part of the new Sask 1st Call Safety Patrol program. The initiative aims to help contractors and homeowners dig safely around underground power, natural gas and telecommunications lines.

    The project was originally created to help reduce the number of underground power, natural gas and telecommunications lines that were being hit by homeowners and contractors.

    The project started in Regina and Saskatoon, and after a strong first year itís coming to Prince Albert

    Safety patroller Gil Lapointe was in Prince Albert on Wednesday visiting construction sites as part of the project. He said itís all too common to see sloppy mistakes that end with cut cables.

    ďPeople will not call in for locates because they think they know where the cables or gas lines are, and they really donít. Theyíre just guessing. Thatís one of them. Number two is even though they do get the locates they donít excavate carefully and they get to close to the lines.Ē

    Lapointe has almost 30 years of experience with SaskPower. He says even for trained professionals, locating underground cables isnít an easy thing.

    ďTechnology hasnít got it down to a science yet, so itís exact. Thatís why we ask people to dig within a metre, because they could be out a little bit, although our locaters are well versed in using the newest equipment.Ē

    Ideally Lapointe said he just wants people to dig carefully and take the proper precautions, since the alternatives can be disastrous. He has one story about a backhoe operator in Saskatoon who cut a three-phase power cable that fed a mall and a large residential area.

    ďThere was a large chunk taken out of his backhoe,Ē Lapointe remembered. ďThatís one that really stands out. There could have been some really serious injuries. The fellow on the backhoe was pretty shaken up.Ē

    The Saskatchewan Common Ground Alliance (SCGA), in partnership with SaskEnergy, SaskPower and SaskTel, originally created the project.

    They send out patrollers like Lapointe, who use marked vehicles to visit job sites. They also visit contractor offices to give presentation, and organize meetings at rental businesses.

    Lapointe said itís all about helping getting people to think before they act.

    ďCall in. It just takes two minutes and weíll get somebody out there as soon as possible and reduce injuries, make it safe for people.Ē

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