April 1, 2019
Terry MurphyOver the past year, homeowners were responsible for 648 utility strikes in the province of Ontario. This represents 12.6 per cent of all utility hits in the province. Compare that to landscape contractors (338 hits or 6.6 per cent) and fence contractors (428 hits or 8.3 per cent). To put these numbers into perspective, these three groups are responsible for 27.5 per cent of the 5,149 utility strikes over the course of the year.

Once again this year, the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) was able to participate in Canada Blooms, March 8-17 at the Enercare Centre in downtown Toronto. Co-located with the National Home Show, the event allows us to reach all three of the aforementioned groups with messaging to help them to Dig Safe.

Last year, I spent two Saturdays volunteering in the Dig Safe feature garden at Canada Blooms. By my count, about 200 people per day stopped to make inquiries. Most homeowners wanted to know why we were there. This means over that over the course of the 10-day show, we were about to speak with about 2,000 interested people. Our message was clear: homeowners need to call Ontario One Call to obtain locates before planting a tree or shrub or installing a fence. If they don’t, they risk striking a live utility line and causing injury, property damage or even death. The surprising fact to me was that many still don’t know that the law in Ontario requires all people who disturb the soil to first call for locates before they dig.

Many homeowners at the show were also not aware that locates are provided by calling Ontario One Call. This service identifies the main utility from the street into the residence. It does not cover back or side areas of the property. These areas must have their utility lines located by private locate providers. Anytime a utility line is hit, the homeowner is responsible, unless they have hired a qualified contractor and they have indicated that their services include obtaining all locates. Many homeowners also don’t know the Ontario One Call locate service is free of charge.

Advice to homeowners

Our message to homeowners at Canada Blooms and other events is simple:
  • If digging for any reason, first call Ontario One Call for locates at 1-800-400-2255. This is law in Ontario.
  • Do not dig until the locates are painted on the ground (typically within five days of the call).
  • Respect the tolerance zone by hand digging (one metre on either side of the locate line).
  • Hand dig safely.

A repeat exhibitor at Canada Blooms

The ORCGA has participated in Canada Blooms for the last four years as the event has proven to be an excellent investment in both time and money. This year’s exhibit was been designed by Landscape Ontario member, Sean James of Sean James Consulting & Design. Sean also coordinated the build. This year, the main feature was a four-panel story board that illustrated the various underground utilities that enter a house (gas, electric, telephone, cable, water and sewer, etc.). The story boards indicated that when you call for locates, each utility is then marked by a different colour of paint on the surface so that everyone knows what the utility is and its location. Our garden also displayed the number to call for locates (1-800-400-2255) and that homeowners are responsible for calling Ontario One Call for locates before digging.

Apprenticeship feature garden

This year, Canada Blooms included a feature garden devoted to the Apprenticeship Program. Designed by Chelsea Mills, Landscape Designer at Gelderman Landscape Services in Waterdown, Ont., the garden was a collaboration between Gelderman, Mohawk College and Landscape Ontario.

Under the direction of instructors, Harry Gelderman (Gelderman Landscape Services), and Andrew McCarty (Partridge Fine Landscapes), the first and second year landscape students did a pre-build of the garden at the Mohawk Campus in Stoney Creek prior to the show. The display was then taken apart, shipped to Canada Blooms and reassembled at the show by the students.

The garden informed visitors about the Apprenticeship Program offered by several Ontario colleges and the many career paths available in the profession. I would like to congratulate all those involved in making this unique garden a reality. The students at Mohawk College did an excellent job of building and assembling this first-class exhibit.


Once again, the ORCGA made the most of an opportunity to reach its intended audience with our dig safe and call before you dig messaging in an effort to reduce the number of utility hits in the province. With the busy spring digging season just around the corner, the show is a great way to kick off our campaign that is then followed by Dig Safe Month and events aimed at furthering the message. Hopefully, we can reduce the number of homeowner underground utility hits again this year.
Terry Murphy CLM