December 15, 2011
What the experts are saying
Fire that could result from a typical residential gas hit.
By Terry Murphy CLP

Terry MurphyIf you really want to know what the experts think about a subject, just ask for their input. So I did just that. I called Mike Scarland, manager of damage prevention for Enbridge Gas Distribution. I asked for his take on the Underground World, what is happening, what are the problems and what the landscape industry can do to make life easier for Enbridge and vice versa.

Enbridge is one of the largest gas companies in Canada. By the way, Mike has spent more than 20 years in damage prevention, is a founding member of the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) and extremely knowledgeable on all underground issues, and is very open, straightforward and candid with his remarks. He also sits on the Ontario ORCGA board of directors.

“You know Terry, most of our problems with landscapers can be solved if they would just take the time to get locates. This is the number one problem.”

First, the number of gas line hits by landscapers is on the decline, which is great, but more significantly, the number of hits due to lack of locates is constant. This means that the majority of landscaper hits are the result of digging without locates. This is still the number one cause of the problem with landscapers”

This information from Enbridge is not new information, as we have heard this scenario many times before. As a matter of fact, that is the reason why Landscape Ontario was originally asked to sit on the ORCGA board: too many hits without locates. I then asked Mike, where does the information come from. “We get this information from our own Enbridge field reports that our people generate, where they must give a reason for a hit. This information is part of our ‘root cause’ reporting analysis that we use to help us reduce hits. We pass this info on to firms and organizations like Landscape Ontario, so we can help them reduce their hits and damage costs. Don’t forget, the cost of an average gas hit to a landscaper is about $3,000.”

I learned from Mike about the overall number of hits that are caused by the landscape community in Ontario. He indicated that ORCGA has a reporting tool called DIRT (Damage Information Reporting Tool). Every time there is an accident reported, the industry and root cause is captured. “This means that all utility strikes are recorded and the key information facts are consistently compiled, so we have provincial statistics on all utility hits in Ontario,” said Mike. “The reason DIRT was incorporated from our United States colleagues, is so we had complete and consistent reporting on damages to know who was causing hits and the reason for the hit. This reporting tool helps us zero in on the problem and the company, or industry and helps us improve our damage prevention and reduce repair costs and more importantly, save lives.”

Mike clearly noted that Landscape Ontario has done a very good job over the last couple of years to bring down the number of utility hits. “Our goal is to reduce the landscape industry hits by 50 per cent in two plus years. However, there is just one area that the landscape community has to work on and that is to make sure to call for locates before digging.
Terry Murphy can be reached at