UTSG approval process for putting stakes in the ground

Date: August 15, 2017
To: St. George Campus Community
From: Gordon Robins, Director, Utilities & Building Operations
Re: Approval process for putting stakes in the ground at the St. George campus

As you can appreciate, the grounds of the University of Toronto St. George (UTSG) campus contain a complicated network of buried services such as power cables, utility piping, data wiring and irrigation piping. What may seem like simply a patio could actually conceal a membrane roof of an underground section of your building. Contractors often do not understand that something as seemingly innocent as driving a stake into the ground to support a tent or a sign can cause interruptions to services provided to the University community, serious damage to our infrastructure or even personal injuries.

For instance, just a few years ago, a worker employed by a construction company drove a stake into the ground by Sidney Smith Hall without permission and nicked the insulation of a 4,160 volt cable. When heavy rains soaked the damaged cable several days later, the cable shorted out, causing an explosion in the Central Power Station. Power to half the campus was knocked out for several hours.

A similar event occurred when a contractor carpenter accidentally drilled a hole through a high-voltage cable duct on Huron Street. Several years ago, a contractor using a backhoe without authorization also hit a high-voltage cable. In each incident, half a dozen buildings were without power and air conditioning for several hours.

The only fortunate thing about all of these incidents was that no one was injured or killed.

The Facilities & Services department has a well-established procedure in place where any excavation (even driving a stake into the ground is considered an excavation) must be granted a permit before proceeding. Before issuing this permission, cables and other underground services are located using drawings and sensing equipment in the field. In many cases, alternative methods of support for tents may be suggested. With just this minimal effort we can keep both the workers and the University’s infrastructure safe from harm.

If your department or organization is contemplating an event, which may involve penetrating the ground, it is essential that you first contact Academic & Campus Events (ACE) at least five days in advance. ACE will initiate the process to notify the appropriate campus authorities who will arrange for any underground services in the vicinity to be located.

With your cooperation, the University can continue to avoid serious accidents in the future.