February 15, 2017
By Terry Murphy CLM

Terry MurphyHave you ever stopped what you are doing and wondered, “what if everything I wished for came true?” What would you wish for? In real life, I think it would be world peace, an end to hunger, a disease-free world and the elimination of poverty. Wishful thinking, right? In regards to damage prevention for the underground world, here is what I would wish for in 2017:

No deaths, serious accidents or property damage

The whole purpose of the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) is to make this wish come true. Each year there are deaths, serious accidents and property damage. Many, if not all, can and should be prevented. The systems are in place to make this happen. Training is on-going, yet we still have to contend with these issues.

A major reduction in the number of underground utility hits

The measure of the effectiveness of the efforts by the ORCGA is the number of utility hits each year. The ORCGA DIRT Report is the scorecard for our industry. This document outlines all the hits in the province. In a perfect world, our goal is to have zero hits. We are managing to maintain reductions in this statistic each year. Measured in hits per thousand locate requests, this number is influenced by the number of calls to ON1CALL, the care and knowledge of the excavating contractor and the overall activity of the industry. A 10 per cent reduction in hits would be great!

More calls to ON1CALL from contractors and the public

The number of calls is also measured by the ORCGA DIRT Report. If the number is increasing each year, it tells us that more contractors are aware of, and are fulfilling their legal obligation by calling ON1CALL. The more locate request calls that are made, the more locates that are completed. This first step in the damage prevention process is a measure of the efficiency of our entire damage prevention system. A five per cent increase in locate requests would be excellent!

A sizeable increase in ORCGA membership

Membership growth is a major challenge for the ORCGA. Our 550 member total seems small when looking at the total number of members in Landscape Ontario, the Canadian Fence Industry Association (CFIA) and the irrigation sector (about 300 companies included in the landscape figures) who are responsible for excavating. Combined, these numbers give us leverage and a voice to lobby and liaison with government. Large memberships allow organizations to complete and more easily execute their mission and goals. Given the size of the groups above, and the nominal $125 fee for a small contractor, the number of members in the ORCGA should be double. The ORCGA would be in a much better position with double its current membership. If everyone reading this article could encourage only one new member to join the ORCGA, we would more than double our membership overnight. Take up the challenge and try to bring in just one new member in 2017. More members also allows us to better advertise to the public. Remember, they are responsible for 12 per cent of all utility hits in Ontario. More ORCGA members will also allow us to monitor and maintain our five-day locate mandate. I wish for a 15 to 20 per cent increase in memberships to the ORCGA in 2017.

More effective production from geographic councils

The ORCGA divides the province into 13 geographic areas and each area has its own ORCGA Geographic Council. The councils meet two or three times each year to talk about damage prevention initiatives in their specific area. These groups should be a catalyst for membership growth and for spreading the word on damage prevention to the public. Geographic councils meet each February at our annual Symposium and I wish for some positive planning and goal setting that can benefit the ORCGA in 2017. Councils should be innovative, productive and create value for the ORCGA. It is my wish they become more involved and effective in 2017. Geographic Councils are heavily involved in our spring “Dig Safe” events. Perhaps each council can stratergize to make their spring “Dig Safe” efforts more productive and meaningful.

Productive work from the ORCGA Board of Directors

Most Board of Directors sit and direct their organizations. They set policies, outline the strategic direction that is required and monitor the outcomes. My wish is for the ORCGA board to establish a new project and that will produce a positive outcome. For example, each board member could locate a local high school and talk about the ORCGA and its mandate on careers day. This would be a positive outcome for the organization. This is a chance for the board to be more innovative, creative and productive in 2017.

etter public awareness of the underground infrastructure

The public causes 12 per cent of all utility hits in Ontario. Most people have no idea about the dangers underground or that they are required to call ON1CALL before digging. Public awareness is a major challenge for the ORCGA and it always will be. While it is a daunting task, it is my wish that we continue our efforts to advertise to the public and to make sure our schools, municipalities and homeowners understand the dangers of digging without locates and that they have an obligation to call before they dig.


The ORCGA has a tremendous responsibility and a large mandate to accomplish in 2017. I have outlined some of the challenges and what I would wish for, to improve each situation. Increased membership is one of the key areas we need to focus our attention on. Membership growth is a major challenge, but significant growth would make realizing each wish more attainable.
Terry Murphy may be reached at tvmurphy@ca.inter.net with any comments, suggestions, or questions.