July 15, 2014
An ALA agreement with a utility involves the contractor agreeing that he will not dig more than 11 inches into the soil.
An ALA agreement with a utility involves the contractor agreeing that he will not dig more than 11 inches into the soil.
By Terry Murphy CLP

Terry MurphyLast issue we covered the fact that the locate request system was overloaded and locates in some areas were taking 10 to 15 days. We also reviewed the Bill 8 regulations and how the system will work when it is fully operational. There are still some ways that landscape contractors can assist with achieving five-day locates and avoid delays and fines.

Any time you are excavating or digging in the soil, the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act says you must call for markings on the ground to indicate where the underground utilities are located. Ontario One Call provides this service in Ontario. You must have markings on the ground and locate paperwork must be on the person who excavates.

The utility company or locate firm will put markings on the ground from the street front into the building entrance. This is the extent of the locate obligation. But, what about back yards and side yards, where much of our landscape works takes place?

Locates for back and side yard excavations are not covered by Ontario One Call. You as excavator must still obtain locates for digging in these locations. Calling a private locate company will probably cost $200 to $400. You can’t dig unless you have checked the area. If you proceed without locates and strike a line, it will cost you a $750 fine for not having a locate, $750 for Technical Standards and Safety Authority investigation and then a repair bill that could cost $2,000 to $4,000. It is not worth the gamble.

Some contractors have their own locate equipment and are themselves doing back and side yard locates. This still requires a call to Ontario One Call. Again, the system covers only from the street into the building entrance, you are still required to obtain locates as part of the damage prevention procedure. You can purchase basic locate equipment for approximately $1,000 and receive some training on using the equipment.

I had a meeting with some Toronto Chapter LO members. I asked them if we scheduled some training, would they be interested in doing their own locates. It was a resounding YES. The training could be done in a four-hour period and probably cost between $125 to $175. This would eliminate the wait for locates and allow you to proceed on your own time schedule for back and side yard excavations. This would also free up the locate company and allow them to do the regular front yard work through Ontario One Call.

Another way to speed up locates is for the contractor to have an ALA agreement with the utility. The contractor and the utility sign an agreement, whereby the contractor agrees that he will not dig more than 11 inches into the soil. You will need a separate ALA for each utility in your area. Once signed, they last for life and do not need to be renewed.

If you have ALAs signed with all utilities in your area and you request Ontario One Call for locates, the organization may give you permission over the phone to go ahead with the digging and no locate markings are required by the locate company. The paperwork is still necessary, showing that you have ALA approval to proceed.  

ALAs are very convenient for irrigation contractors and firms involved in planting annuals, etc., because it does not require digging below the 11 inch depth. This again can save you time and money and avoid delays to your schedule. It also will free-up the locate company to do the front yard requests from Ontario One Call. We will have many of the utilities present at Congress 2015 and they will be signing up contractors for ALAs.

These are some of ways that we as an industry can help speed up the locate process. Spring demand will always extend locate time, but if we can have ALAs and do some of our own back and side yard locates, it will greatly assist the damage prevention industry in delivering on-time locates for  your projects. It will save everyone time, money and fines.
Terry Murphy can be reached at tvmurphy@ca.inter.net.