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New dig-safe training for youth in construction looking to improve safety skills

A collaboration between several construction organizations in the province has resulted in the launch of a new youth training program, focused on teaching safety know-how when digging near underground utility lines.

A collaboration between several construction organizations in the province has resulted in the launch of a new youth training program, focused on teaching safety know-how when digging near underground utility lines.

The Ground Disturbance for Saskatchewan Workers training initiative is a program aimed at individuals aged 14-21 who are interested in entering the construction, agriculture, or other ground-related industries.

As a free course, the program will teach participants about proper practices when breaking ground during projects, like the importance of locating utility lines and how to do it.

Developed through a partnership between the Saskatchewan Safety Council, the Saskatchewan Common Ground Alliance, and the Heavy Construction Safety Association of Saskatchewan, the new course is the first of its kind in North America to target this particular safety issue in this way.

“We felt, as a collaboration of construction groups in Saskatchewan, that it’s our responsibility to help educate,” said Derrick Mann, president of the SCGA.

As a free, three-hour course, the program helps to equip youth with the knowledge and habits they need to safely dig on a work site and avoid striking underground utility infrastructure or causing damage from soil collapses.

Line hits during digging remain a big issue in the province, said Mann, with Saskatchewan recording over 700 per year and Canada as a whole reporting $1 billion in line-hit damage annually.

“That should be zero. There’s no reason for those hits, and so we’re trying to look at it from a different angle here,” said Mann. 

The overall goal of the program is to reduce the number of incidents in the future by offering free training to workers as they enter the workforce, rather than later on in their careers.

“It gives them the base knowledge to even start asking the right questions, once you get out onto a site, [and] to orientate yourself around the basics of damage prevention,” said Mann.

Eli Sorensen is a graduate of the program and spoke to how the training is already aiding him in his previous job in construction as a summer student.

“When you’re young, you have a lot of energy and enthusiasm, but you haven’t been in a lot of situations [and this course] gave me an understanding of some of the risks there are out there,” said Sorensen.

The program is also part of a larger safety program from the SSC, designed by industry experts to target the most common injuries that happen to new workers in their fields.

The Ground Disturbance for Saskatchewan Workers training course is available online at sasksafety.org and offers a certificate to everyone who completes it.