April 15, 2011
By Terry Murphy CLP

Terry MurphyThe landscape sector registered an amazing statistic, by going from 542 hits in 2009 all the way down to 360 in 2010. That’s an amazing 34 per cent decline in 2010, compared to what was a record high in 2009. This is a tremendous turnaround and a solid improvement for our industry. Keep up the great work!

Why is it important?

One can list several key reasons why it is very important for the landscape industry, Landscape Ontario members and every landscape firm to keep reducing our underground hits. Some of the main reasons include:
  • Each underground hit has the potential to kill or injure employees.
  • Damage repair is expensive,  averaging $4,000 per hit.
  • Underground damage prevention is your personal responsibility.
  • Government inspection authorities are beginning to have a more positive attitude toward our industry.
  • Our industry image is at stake with underground stakeholders.
  • It is the right thing to do for your safety due diligence.

Key time is right now

We all know that April, May and June are key months in our industry, a time when we are the most active and busy.  These are the months that can make or break our industry in respect to our underground hit reduction plan. And so, these are the months on which we need to focus. We must take our time, plan our work, get the required locates and take care when we excavate. Spring safety meetings should cover all the important aspects of this subject.

Statistics improving

Above are the latest statistics, which have been prepared by the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) from its damage prevention report, known as DIRT (Damage Information Reporting Tool).
As you can see, landscaping hits have been steadily increasing annually from 2005. In 2009 our hits went up 38 per cent from the previous year. Now this year you have reduced our hit damage by 34 per cent, which is a remarkable turnaround. Let’s keep that trend going, as we start our 2011 season.

Elements of improvement

In working closely with ORCGA, it’s easy to see that we need to keep talking about underground damage prevention and the need to always get locates and excavate safely. Specific actions that each landscape firm can take to assist in our underground hit reduction plan are:
  • Always obtain locates before starting to dig.
  • Get set up with Alternative Locate Agreements (ALAs) with your local utilities.
  • Give sufficient locate request time for the locate company to do its work
  • Forecast and prioritize your locate requests for the season to the locate company
  • At all industry meetings, remind company owners or managers of their responsibilities to obtain locates.
Our level of professionalism dictates that we make every effort possible to eliminate underground hits. It’s a matter of due diligence. Please continue to talk about this subject at meetings, Chapter events, board meetings, or one-on-one. Our target goal continues to be a reduction in our landscape industry hits by over 50 per cent in the next two to three years, down from the high of 542 hits in 2009. We can do it! Our target goal for 2013 is 270 hits. Let’s make it happen.

Clip and save this series of articles on the underground industry for your company safety training sessions.

Green Industry Utility Hits

Year Agriculture Fencing Irrigation Landscaping Total
2010 0 353 3 360 716
2009 2 365 5 542 914
2008 0 339 3 393 735
2007 1 422 3 386 812
2006 11 366 3 317 697
2005 62 406 0 195 663
Total 76 2,251 17 2,193 4,537

Please send your comments, suggestions and ideas to tvmurphy@ca.inter.net.