May 15, 2015
By Terry Murphy CLM

Terry MurphyThe Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) dedicates the month of April to marketing underground safety and damage prevention to the public by having key awareness sessions across Ontario.

These annual awareness and information presentations are directed towards the general public, municipalities and any venue that can reach  large numbers of the public, in addition to excavators, to promote safe digging.

There were more than 50 promotions in various cities and at partner companies, such as Home Depot and Tim Hortons. One of the challenges underground damage prevention is the fact that a private citizen working on an outdoor project must call Ontario One Call for locates, exactly the same as a landscape contractor.

The problem is that many homeowners still do not understand what a locate is, and which utilities are actually in the ground. And, they do not know what their obligations are under the law. The other important point is that locates obtained by calling Ontario One Call are only marked from the street or public right-of-way to where the utility enters the private residence or commercial property. Any back or side yard locates are the responsibility of the owner, and not covered by the initial request to Ontario One Call. The public needs to learn more about these obligations if trees or shrubs are planted, or post holes are dug. This is why the awareness campaign is so important.

Why be bothered with the public? There are two key target groups in damage prevention. One is the excavating contractor and the other is the home owner. In Canada, while there are no concrete records kept, it is estimated that damages to underground utilities may annually cost $75-million. Who pays for this enormous cost? Anyone who purchases natural gas, electricity, water and sewer use, cable, etc., and other underground utilities pays for underground damage.

The other point, and perhaps the most important one, is that when an underground utility hit occurs, there could be loss of life or injury. Natural gas piping, electrical wiring and other underground utilities will can cause create serious injury if disturbed.

Landscape Ontario is very safety conscious and we are assisting the ORCGA with its Dig Safe promotion. This takes place year round. LO promoted Dig Safe Day at our annual Congress trade show. We had over 40 people outfitted in Dig Safe yellow T-shirts walking the floor and talking about the ORCGA and its mission on underground safety. These were exhibitors and ORCGA member firms and safety organizations all sharing the message.

In March, at the Mohawk College apprenticeship campus in Stoney Creek, students were given a two-hour presentation on underground damage prevention.  

One of the functions I attended was Dig Safe Day at the City of Mississauga on Apr. 1. Lori O’Doherty, events coordinator for the ORCGA, and John Huber of Enbridge Gas gave Mayor Bonnie Crombie and the Mississauga Council members an introduction to the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance. They outlined the work they do, the programs they have and that the membership consists of 500 and is growing.

Some of the councilors indicated that they would post information on their Facebook and Twitter accounts about underground safety, expressing how pleased they were to learn more about ORCGA. This was one of the many successful events in April.

Jim Douglas, president of ORCGA, stated, “We started the branding five years ago, and now it is well recognized and spreading across Ontario and Canada as a well-known damage prevention safety brand. We are pleased to have it as our slogan and ORCGA brand.”

ORCGA staff members are also responsible promoting the concept and arranging the various Dig Safe meetings and presentations at municipalities and member firms during the month of April. If you are interested in promoting underground damage prevention safety at any time in your company, contact the ORCGA at for more information. It is a great way to kick off safety meetings when you talk to your employees throughout the 2015 season.
Terry Murphy can be reached at