March 15, 2016
By Terry Murphy CLM

Terry MurphyThe 13th annual Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance Symposium was held at Blue Mountain Resort in Collingwood, Feb. 9- 11 and was attended by 260 delegates. This three-day event featured the ORCGA winter board meeting, education seminars, committee meetings, a trade show and keynote industry speakers. This event for the damage control industry is very similar to Landscape Ontario’s Congress trade show as it is a great way to kick-off a new year. The conference was informative and up-lifting and left everyone energized to continue with the damage prevention focus across the province.  Below you will find a summary of the symposium events and keynote speakers.

Presidents address

ORCGA president Ian Munro started by outlining the vision and mission of the ORCGA, noting that thier overall objective is to reduce utility hits, minimize damages, increase membership, and promote the damage prevention message to fencing and landscape contractors and to the public. Munro indicated the total number of utility hits in Ontario in 2014 was 3809, which was a reduction of 24% over 2013. There has been a constant improvement over the last 5 years. The two key reasons for hits by the excavators are not calling for locates and insufficient excavation practices. The green industry, which includes fencing and landscaping, is responsible for 14% of the total hits in Ontario.

Board chairman comments

Kevin Bowers of Union Gas, Chairman of the Board, said the ORCGA is financially on target and shows a surplus again for 2015. The Board continues to oversee the implementation of the strategic plan and reviews the main goals and objectives for the year. The ORCGA office moved from St. Catharines to Toronto in January of 2015 and has added a new sales manager, accountant/office manager and is looking to add a new event coordinator in the near future. The further development of the 13 Geographic Councils is an important objective for 2016. Other key goals include membership growth, sponsorship retention, advertising and brand promotion, public awareness and cost control.

Ben Hamilton, Executive Director, ON1Call

Hamilton pointed out the mission of ON1Call is dedicated to public safety and to protect the community from underground utility accidents by efficiently receiving excavator requests for locates and dispatching these requests to the infrastructure owners and locate companies. Recently, ON1Call opened a new $1.4 million call centre to manage the increasing number of locate requests in the province. Hamilton indicated there were over 50,000 emergency locate requests last year. This critical area needs more attention as many excavators are abusing the system. The organization will spend over $500,000 this year on marketing efforts and over $1 million in 2017 and again in 2018 in education and marketing. Another key area is to continue to improve the mapping of infrastructure in Ontario in order to improve the accuracy of information when achieving quality locates. Hamilton also updated the audience on a number of ongoing initiatives.

ORCGA operating committees

The key committees met to discuss their objectives and review their goals for the year. These committees then formulate their yearly plans and present their reports to delegates.

Geographic Councils Committee

Each council talked about their activities and events for the year. The key goal is to increase local membership and have more firms participating in local activities. The “Dig Safe” promotions in March are the major event where the ORCGA focuses on municipalities and public awareness. These councils support and organize over 50 events in March each year. Each Council has a target for increased membership and Council chairs left the meeting with increased energy to raise awareness in their own region and to increase membership numbers.

The Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Committee

Chair Richard Durer outlined the purpose of the DIRT committee and its goal to report the statistical information on utility hits, locate requests, notifications, root causes of damages and other pertinent data. The statistics they provide are broken down by geographic area and by industry sectors. The report clearly indicates what sectors are improving or not and what the key factors are for utility hits in each area. The report is published in June of each year and 2014 was the 8th year for the report. In summary, total industry hits are down, locate requests and notifications are up, and reasons for damages continue to be excavators not calling for locates and poor excavation practices by contractors, especially in the tolerance zone of 1 metre on either side of a buried utility line.

Education And Events Committee

Jeff Hitchcock, ON1Call and Michele Phinney, Hydro One, are co-chairs for this committee. They gave a summary of the activities in 2015 and noted this year’s event dates and an outline of what is planned for 2016. The Symposium will be in early February in either London or Niagara Falls. Our “Dig Safe” kick-off will be March 31 in Kingston. Dig Safe presentations will be made in several municipalities in March. The Rodeo event will be in the fall. Golf this year had over 280 attendees and will be at the same Ajax golf course location in 2016.  The Board will meet five times in 2016 and all Geographic Council meetings are now scheduled. Guest speakers, member testimonials and new firm introductions will be a feature of the Geographic Council Meetings in 2016.

Best Practices Committee

The new Best Practices Manual, Version 1, has been produced by the Canadian Common Ground Alliance as a document for Canada. It is based on the Ontario manual Version 8. A great deal of time has been devoted to this manual by our ORCGA as it clearly defines the best practices to follow to prevent utility hits. This manual has been 10 years in the making, with many hours of discussion and debate. The Chair outlined the new process whereby best practice requests are reviewed locally and then sent to each region for their comments and approvals. This means that any new practice or change to an existing practice must have the approval of six regions in order to become a part of the manual. There are 49 new proposals that are currently under review for consideration for the next printing of the manual.

Symposium seminars

Symposium seminars are very popular because they discuss the challenges faced by the industry and possible solutions are proposed and debated. There were a number of exceptional seminars on the various aspects of the damage prevention industry.

Membership in the ORCGA

The ORCGA is seeking new member firms to add to the existing 500 firms. The cost for a small excavating landscaper or fencing company is $125 per year. Members receive the Ear to the Ground magazine, DIRT Report and Best Practices Manual which combined are already worth half the price of membership. Membership fees are also a deductible business expense.  More information about membership is available by contacting Jennifer
Parent at or 1-866-446-4493. More members translates into more awareness and fewer damages to underground utilities.


Anyone in the damage prevention industry would greatly benefit from this three-day conference. The other important aspect of the conference was the opportunity to network and meet with industry professionals and the ORCGA executive.
Terry Murphy can be reached at