July 15, 2015
By Terry Murphy CLM

Terry MurphyThe green industry statistics show a dramatic reduction in utility hits over the last 12 months. Why? I believe that the message of damage prevention and calling for locates is finally getting through to our excavators.  

Continuous messaging from the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) and its annual Dig Safe promotion is paying great dividends.

Contractors are realizing that the time, effort and costs associated with a utility strike are not worth the risk of digging without locates. Not getting locates, especially when they are free and available in five business days, really doesn’t make any sense at all.

The following table will give you an indication of what an industry can do if it puts its collective minds to it. Both landscape and fencing sectors, which make up over 90 per cent of the utility damages, show major reductions during the last year. Both sectors made great progress in 2014, and continue to reduce the number of utility hits.

Here are the results of absolute number of utility hits and the percent change from the previous year for the landscape and fencing sectors.

The one year reduction in hits in the fencing sector is 40 per cent. This is outstanding. The three year reduction in hits is 20 per cent, which is a solid improvement.

The one year reduction in absolute hits is 24 per cent. This is excellent. The three year reduction in hits is 30 per cent, which continues to show great improvement.

The green industry has reduced the total number of hits by 30 per cent in 2014. This is one of the best years for hit reductions on record. Congratulations everyone; well done.

Let me outline a couple of important considerations on the ORCGA DIRT Report statistics. There are two major areas to analyze utility hits in our industry. There are the absolute hits and there are the number of locate requests that are processed in a year, which indicates how many opportunities actually exist for a possible hit to take place. Both are important.  

It is very similar to a batting average in major league baseball. There is the number of hits that a player achieves. That is divided by the number of times which that person goes to bat (not including walks). If a batter has 50 hits and has taken 200 attempts to obtain those 50 hits, then the batting average is 50 divided by 200, resulting in a 250 average. Obviously, the higher the batting average the better, because the batting average is a measureable statistic. In damage prevention, we are looking for a low number; the lower the better.

The numbers in the table consider only the absolute utility strikes and do not include the locate attempts data, which is not available at this time. It will be ready shortly and we will be able to compare our batting average in damage prevention. This will be the true measure of our damage prevention efforts. Regardless, the reduction in actual absolute utility hits is very encouraging and shows major improvements in both the fencing and landscaping sectors.

This tells me that our overall efforts in damage prevention promotion are having an influence. All excavators in the green industry are taking much more care when they excavate.

Within the next month, when I receive the locate request data for 2014, I will be able to confirm if the results are as good as they look. I will then be able to give you a complete and valid damage prevention statistic. So far so good!


Absolute number of utility hits

2010 0 353 3 360 - 716
2011 0 320 (-9%) 5 360 ( 0%) - 685 (-4.4%)
2012 1 390 (+22%) 5 369 (+2.5%) 24 789 (+15 %)
2013 3 424 (+9%) 1 334 (-9.1%) 28 790 ( Nil)
2014 4 256 (-40%) 2 254 (-24%) 34 550 (-30.4%)

Terry Murphy can be reached at tvmurphy@ca.inter.net.