June 15, 2012
By Terry Murphy CLP

Terry MurphyUnderground hits in a category called “Green Industry” by the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) are down some six per cent in 2011 from the previous year. This is a good effort.

This category includes agriculture, fencing, irrigation and landscaping. The landscaping sector held its number of hits at 360, which is the same as 2010. Looking at it in a positive way, we can say that we didn’t increase the number of hits, however, at the same time we didn’t reduce them either. See the chart below.

There are several key reasons why it is very important for the landscape industry, Landscape Ontario members and every landscape firm to continue preventing underground hits.
  • Each hit has the potential to kill or injure an employee.
  • Your total costs of damage repair will average $4,000 per hit.
  • Underground damage prevention and employee safety are your personal responsibility.
  • Your industry image is at stake with underground infrastructure stakeholders.
  • It is the right thing to do for safety due diligence.
  • It shows all stakeholders that we care as an industry.

Call before you dig

We all know that April, May and June are the key months for our businesses. This is the time we are most active and busy. These months can also make or break the industry in respect to our underground hit reduction plan. It is a time we need to focus and plan our work, talk to and train employees to obtain the required locates and to take care when we excavate.
Safety meetings should regularly cover this all-important subject. So make sure you call before you dig and obtain locates.

Utility hits

The latest statistics prepared by the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) from its damage prevention report are presented below.

As you can see, landscaping hits shown in the Green Industry stats table, had been steadily increasing annually from 2005, with the biggest jump in 2009, when our hits went up 38 per cent over the previous year. In 2010, it dropped by 34 per cent. Last year, there was no reduction in our hit numbers. This shows we need more focus on this issue.

Tools for improvement don’t change

In working closely with ORCGA, we need to keep talking at Chapter and board meetings about underground damage prevention and the need to always obtain locates and excavate safely.

We need your help! There are specific actions that each landscape company may take to assist in our underground hit reduction plan. First off is to remember to always call for and get locates. You should set up an Alternative Locate Agreement with your local utilities. Other ways to assist lowering the hit numbers are: Give sufficient locate request time (five days) in order that the locate company may do the work; prioritize your locate requests for the balance of the season to the locate company, especially for multi tree planting jobs; at all industry meetings and tailgate sessions, remind everyone of their duty to get locates before they dig. If you know the exact location of your digging, outline the area in white paint so the locate company can insure that that area is free of utilities. To help you, call ORCGA (1-866-446-4493) to get a copy of the Best Practices for digging.

More stats to consider

We conclude from the comparable statistics table that the total number of hits from all industries in Ontario is decreasing very nicely, along with the total green industry hits. But, over half of the landscaping hits can be blamed on lack of locates.  

Our due diligence dictates that we make every possible effort to eliminate underground hits. Continue to talk about this subject at any meetings, Chapter events, board meetings, or with employees. Our goal is to reduce our landscape industry hits by over 50 per cent in the next two to three years. We can do it! Our target goal for next year 2013 is 270 hits. Let’s make it happen!  But, we cannot make it happen if we don’t get locates. Remember, over half (53 per cent) of our hits in 2011 were due to landscapers not obtaining locates.

ORCGA’s Green Industry category underground utility hits

Year Agriculture Fencing Irrigation Landscaping Total
2006 11 366 3 317 697
2007 1 422 3 386 812
2008 0 339 3 393 735
2009 2 365 5 542 914
2010 0 353 3 360 716
2011 0 320 5 360 685
Total 14 2,165 22 2,358 4,559

ORCGA breakdown of hits with and without locates

Year Number of total hits for all industries Green Industry total hits Green industry hits without locates
2009 6,301 914 392 (42%)
2010 5,424 716 384 (54%)
2011 4,559 685 345 (53%)
Terry Murphy can be reached at tvmurphy@ca.inter.net.