May 6, 2020
By Terry Murphy CLP

Terry MurphyEach spring, I anxiously await the new Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) DIRT Report that includes the latest statistics on underground utility hits for the previous year. The 2019 results were beyond my expectations with a provincial reduction of 9.8 per cent over 2018. Even more impressive is the reduction in hits by the Fencing Industry, which has over the years, has driven up the total number of Green Industry hits. The Fencing Industry reduced hits by 22 per cent last year. The Green Industry still makes up 14.8 per cent of the total hits in Ontario. This is a reduction from 16.5 per cent in 2018. This is all very good news as we begin the 2020 excavation season. The following explains the data compiled on hits, locate requests and notifications.

The provincial totals in Table 1 look good, but need to compare them to the overall level of excavating activity to put things into perspective.

Locate requests and notifications

When ON1CALL receives a locate request for a specific property, it is analyzed to see how many different utilities are present for that street address. Each utility present has to be located and marked individually. This is called a notification. There may often be eight to 10 different utilities for a single property. This determines the number of notifications associated with a particular locate request. The tables below looks at locate requests and the resulting notifications. The number of notifications represents the number of possible hits that could happen in a particular year. Industry looks at the number of hits because they are what result in damage and repair costs. I will focus on the landscape and fencing sectors as they make up most of the total hits in the Green Industry Sector.

Locate request analysis

In Table 2, the total number of locate requests to ON1CALL in 2019 for the landscape sector was 82,968. The fencing industry total was 53,749. Hits per locate request for landscapers was 0.00416, while fencing was 0.00699. The actual number of hits was much improved for the fencing industry, however, their level of business (measured in locate requests) was greatly reduced in 2019 compared to 2018.

In Table 3, we see locate companies marked 376,519 underground utility lines landscapers and 196,720 for fencers in 2019. These are the potential opportunities for hits and damages in each sector.

Notifications analysis

Remember that a notification is the request for a locator to mark the location of a specific underground utility. It is the potential for a utility hit. So the true measure of the efficiency of an industry is the number of damages (utility hits) compared to the actual number of notifications.

The number of hits per notification for the landscape industry is 0.000916 and fencing is 0.00191. The landscape industry has about the same number of underground hits as last year, and almost double the number of underground utilities to worry about, compared to those of the fencing industry.

Other news

ORCGA: The ORCGA is operating with one staff person in the office each day and the other three working from home. They are closely following all the recommended COVID-19 rules set out by the government. It is business as usual, but in a reduced form.
Damage prevention courses are being developed for workers and supervisors involved in excavations. I will provide more information next month.

ON1CALL: Everything is as normal as possible and they are working as best as possible under current government restrictions. All locate request calls are processed as usual.


The overall improvement on utility hits in 2019 is very encouraging. Hopefully 2020 will continue that reduction with even less damage.

Table 1: Annual number of utility hits

Sector 2016 2017 2018 2019 Change
Landscaping 358 344 341 345 +1.1%
Fencing 437 437 483 376 -22.2%
Irrigation 8 12 8 7 -12.5%
Agriculture 3 4 1 4 +300%
Ontario 4,896 5,305 5,042 4,934 -9.8%

Table 2: Locate requests to ON1CALL

Sector 2016 2017 2018 2019
Landscaping 23,310 28,028 22,136 23,012
Interlocking 4,079 4,155 3,880 4,209
Tree Planting 58,346 52,462 53,518 55,738
Total Landscaping 87,735 84,645 79,534 82,968
Fencing 50,613 56,732 59,468 53,749

Table 3: Resulting notifications on properties

Sector 2016 2017 2018 2019
Landscaping 114,953 140,125 97,242 101,804
Interlocking 18,261 18,891 16,270 17,808
Tree Planting 272,648 235,057 205,770 256,907
Total Landscaping 405,852 394,073 319,282 376,519
Fencing 192,912 226,223 213,044 196,720

Terry Murphy CLM