January 15, 2016
By Terry Murphy CLM

Terry MurphyIt has been an honour for me to represent the landscape and fencing sectors on the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) Board of Directors for the last ten years. I hope you have found this monthly column interesting and informative and that it assisted you with your underground damage prevention issues.

There was a consolidation of the provincial alliances across Canada this year, along with the introduction of a new best practises manual. My sole purpose in representing you is to keep you up-to-date on any legal or safety legislation changes; give field operation examples that have cost our members money in fines, hoping that you can learn from them; communicate key issues, and give you my personal opinion on damage prevention matters.  

The founder of the ORCGA, Jim Douglas, retired this year, and was succeeded by Ian Munro. Kevin Bowers (Union Gas) is the new chair of the board of directors. Michael Jensen (Rogers Communication) is the new finance chair, while Tom Kidd (Hydro One) remains the governance chair. Jennifer Parent has joined our staff as membership coordinator. The office was moved from St. Catharines to Markham in December.

We are pleased to say there are currently nearly 500 members in ORCGA. The goal was to add 100 new members in 2015. We fell a bit sort on this goal, adding 60 new members this year. We encourage all landscape and fencing firms to join the ORCGA. Small excavation contractors can join for an annual fee of $125.

There was an increased presence of the Technical Standards and Safety Association (TSSA) and the Ministry of Labour (MOL) this year, with issuing more fines. There were also heavy cost recovery charges from the gas utilities for repair of damaged lines. One contractor was invoiced $11,000 for damage on a two-inch gas line.

ORCGA sponsored many industry events this year, which not only promoted damage prevention, but also helped to generate revenue. These include a golf tournament (250 golfers), an educational and trade show with three-day symposium (250 participants), a fall education seminar and a locate rodeo. Public Dig Safe awareness days this spring included presentations at 13 municipalities and another 40 events at major industry member firms. Help from the business community included public awareness days at some Tim Hortons outlets and also some Home Depot stores.

Damage prevention education is a very important function of ORCGA. The curriculum in the provincial government’s horticultural technician apprenticeship program includes lessons on underground safety and the importance of obtaining locates.

The spring’s Dig Safe damage prevention days provided home owners information on the importance of obtaining locates. ORCGA’s Damage Prevention Technician Program offered technical training to industry professional locators this year, so that they can improve their skills in locating and marking underground utility lines.

New this year at Landscape Ontario Congress 2016 is Speakers’ Corner, which is dedicated to damage prevention education. This event will have three speakers a day, for each of the three days, on the floor of the Congress trade show.

Also in March, ORCGA and Ontario One Call will have an exhibit at the National Home Show/Canada Blooms to promote damage prevention to the public. ORCGA will also have an exhibit in the contractors’ area at Canada Blooms.

The Canadian Common Ground Alliance has all provinces represented. The provincial associations give us a unified Canadian presence. The Dig Safe brand will be promoted nationally. Each provincial association has a representative on the national board.

The ORCGA Best Practices Manual is now being used as the CCGA National Best Practices Manual. Any future changes that are incorporated will be approved by national committee, as a national standard in Canada.
Two key areas surfaced this year for excavating contractors. The first is working safely within the tolerance zone and the other is back and side yard locate requirements. Many utility hit damages occur within the one metre tolerance zone, because of pointed or sharp-edged hand tools. Only dull or rounded tools should be used in order to not cut a utility line. Hydro vac (high pressure water) services are another important alternative and option for contractors who must excavate close to underground utility lines.

The other area of concern is understanding what a locate request to Ontario One Call covers. Locates from Ontario One Call only cover from the street boulevard into where the service enters the building. It does not cover back yards and side yards. Separate locates must be obtained for these areas. Whoever digs in the soil is responsible for having the locate done and having paperwork on site. These two issues resulted in several utility hits this year.
Online locate services are now available. With the approval of Bill 8 in the Ontario Legislature, the law supports locates being completed in five working days from when it is called into the call centre. Steve Waugh at Ontario One Call wants to hear from anyone who has waited longer than five days for locates. This year has been relatively trouble free of long delays.

ORCGA Councils are similar to Landscape Ontario Chapters. There are three key responsibilities to support the Alliance. They provide education and damage prevention awareness with Dig Safe sessions at local firms and municipalities. Councils are the information arm of ORCGA, keeping local members informed on current provincial issues. There has been a renewal in the Councils this year and that will continue to develop with the new membership coordinator. Each Council will have the goal of developing three new members.

All utility damages are reported into a central reporting system (DIRT) to track the number of utility hits and the root cause of these damages. This valuable reporting tool shows where we must improve safety efforts and to focus on improvements. Reviewing this publication may allow you and your firm to improve safety training efforts on damage prevention.

Data shows great improvement has been made by both the landscape and fencing sectors. The landscape industry improved performance by 27 per cent, while fencing improved by 40 per cent.
Terry Murphy can be reached at tvmurphy@ca.inter.net.