April 3, 2020
Terry MurphyAmidst all the bad news these days (coronavirus, plunging oil prices, declining world stock market values, school closures, and more), there is one very positive Ontario statistic that we should highlight for the green profession. Statistics show the total number of underground utility hits in the province of Ontario were down from 5,371 in 2018 to 4,934 in 2019.

This fantastic reduction of 8.2 per cent is the largest reduction in almost a decade. This is great news because it shows to the damage prevention industry that excavators are paying attention to the law, and are calling for locates — keeping the social and economic costs of damages to a minimum. Remember, we all pay for these costs in our monthly utility bills. Last year alone these hidden costs were more than $660 million across Canada. This is a staggering number and every citizen and business must help to reduce these unnecessary costs. One way to do this is to join the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA), whose main goal is the reduction of underground utility hits in the province of Ontario. Small contractors can join for an annual membership fee of $125. Call the ORCGA for details at 1-866-446-4493 for information.
GREEN INDUSTRY UTILITY HITS 2017 2018 2019 Percent Change
Landscaping 344 341 345 +1.1%
Fencing 437 483 376 -25.5%
Irrigation 12 8 7 -12.5%
Waterways 2 1 5 +400%
Agriculture 4 1 4 +300%
Provincial Total 5,367 5,371 4,934 -8.2%

Provincial sector reviews

These numbers are extremely positive; a reduction of 8.2 per cent is outstanding. These provincial totals reverse an increasing trend over the last five years. The ORCGA strives for a reduction each year, and it appears these efforts are paying off. Trade shows and events, such as the National Home Show/Canada Blooms, Landscape Ontario Congress, community Dig Safe events, and other promotional events all contribute to spreading awareness and reduce damages.


While the results are good, we will continue to push contractors to Call for Locates and to Dig Safe. With 8,000 horticultural firms in the Ontario market, about one-third are members of Landscape Ontario. It would be very interesting to see if the number of hits varied between member companies and non-members, but such detailed data is not available. I would like to think that the number of hits by professional members would be drastically lower. Through its extensive reach and regional chapter network, Landscape Ontario will continue to promote and advertise the call-before-you-dig message to its members.


Hits by the fencing industry have been increasing for each of the last four years. In 2019, it had the largest percentage reduction in utility hits of any green industry sector in the last decade. The fencing sector called ON1CALL for 53,747 locate requests in 2019. This resulted in 196,720 notifications sent out by ON1CALL (a notification is a request to a utility to provide locates to a specific property). This is a great effort by fencing contractors who are obviously digging more safely on their projects. Hopefully they can continue this positive trend.


Since excavations are generally only six- to nine-inches deep, contractors have a minimal number of underground utility hits. Most gas lines are installed 18-in. deep. This sector can also take advantage of Alternate Locate Agreements (ALA) with utilities, which can greatly assist their projects.

Waterways and Agriculture

These are small sectors which really don’t affect the provincial totals.


At this time, the number of hits by the public sector is not available. Generally, this group accounts for roughly the same number of utility hits as the Green Industry Sector (about 15 per cent of the total hits in the province).
I hope to have details next month.

Provincial Red Seal Horticultural Apprenticeship curriculum

The curriculum for the Workplace Safety course in the Horticultural Technician Apprenticeship Program (HTAP) mandates that instructors cover damage prevention and calling for locates before digging. At Mohawk College, the Technical Standards and Safety Association (TSSA) recently gave a three-hour presentation to 25 students. These students now understand the law and the dangers of digging without locates. More endeavours like this will all contribute to a reduction of utility hits across the province.


The 2019 underground utility stats are encouraging. Congratulations to all excavators on continuing to reduce the number of underground utility hits in Ontario.
Terry Murphy CLM