April 6, 2021
Terry MurphySpringtime in Canada means different things to different groups. Homeowners think of flowers and gardens, and a return to more time outdoors. For landscapers, spring is a hectic rush that involves planting trees and shrubs, excavating for irrigation lines, fencing, driveways and patios. For those in the damage prevention industry, spring means an huge surge in the number of underground utility locate requests and unfortunately, needless utility strikes. Spring means digging.

The Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA), through its “Dig-Safe” messaging, works year round to educate everyone to first contact ON1CALL for locates prior to digging. April is also Dig Safe Month — where ORCGA members and Geographic Councils lead local campaigns to spread awareness about safe digging practices to ensure the message remains top of mind through spring and beyond.  

The ORCGA’s prime function is the promotion and advocacy for the prevention of the underground utility infrastructure, reducing excavating strikes, and ensuring contractors and the public call for locates before they dig. Their goal is to reduce the cost of underground damages, which are hidden in all utility bills. Through a unified approach and by consensus, the 24-member ORCGA Board of Directors work together for a safer Ontario.

Vision and mission

The ORCGA’s vision is simple and straightforward: “Dig Safe.” This covers many facets of the underground industry. To have contractors and homeowners dig safety, they must first understand the magnitude of what lies underground: miles and miles of natural gas lines, high and low voltage hydro lines, telephone lines, fibre optic cable lines, television cable lines, etc. When someone disturbs the soil, they (whether a contractor or homeowner) risk serious injury, property damage, and possibly their own life. The ORCGA’s mission is to educate, train, provide advocacy, and create safe work practices for trades people and the public so that utility strikes are eliminated, property damages are zero, and injuries and deaths are non-existent. They do this through training and education programs, like participating in trade shows and community events. They do this by facilitating locaters with professional training programs that certify their knowledge and expertise to give accurate locates. They do this by initiating laws (Bill 8) that require everyone calls for locates prior to digging. They also do this by regular industry geographic council meetings for excavators, contractors and suppliers.    


Utility strikes across Canada average around 10,000 per year. Half of these are in Ontario. These utility strikes cost society an estimated $650 million last year. We all pay for these unnecessary costs on our utility bills. In Ontario, the 5,000 utility strikes are broken down as follows: Landscaping 8 per cent; Fencing 9 per cent, Irrigation, 0.05 per cent; Agriculture nil. In addition, the balance are: Sewer and Watermain Contractors 23 per cent; Road Builders 11 per cent; Utility 16 per cent; Construction 23 per cent; Homeowners 10 per cent.

Actions required

Here are things you can do to assist damage prevention efforts:
  • Forecast your projects to ON1CALL.
  • Contact ON1CALL for locates.
  • Do not dig unless you have your locates including paperwork.
  • Have your locate paperwork on site.
  • Report all damages to the utility involved.
  • Delegate an employee to be your “locate” specialist.
  • Discuss damage prevention with employees at your next safety meeting.


Lack of attention to obtaining locates can cause problems and needless costs in addition to potential injury to your employees and your customers. Help minimize utility strikes and help promote damage prevention by becoming a member of the ORGCA via ORCGA.com.
Terry Murphy CLM