September 15, 2012
By Terry Murphy CLP

Terry MurphyThe tabulated results of 2011 industry utility hits show that we really didn’t make any improvement in our industry utility hits over 2010.

This is surprising, considering the effort by Landscape Ontario and the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance to encourage landscapers to obtain locates and dig safely. We had the same number of utility hits in 2011 as in 2010. Our sole measure of improvement and success is “how many hits this year compared to last year?” Are they going up or down?

Half don’t get locates

One very meaningful improvement is the number of actual hits that had locate requests. We are getting more locate requests, but we still have 50 per cent of hits happen where the contractor did not get any locates. This is far too many and we need to focus on spreading the word to the industry to never dig without locates.

The perfect scenario would be that every utility strike that is reported had a locate request for that job. That would truly be an improvement. At present, we have too many contractors with a laissez faire attitude about obtaining locates before they dig. It seems they feel that striking a utility line will never happen to them. They don’t realize the life or death consequences that may come when one does not get locates. And by the way, it is law!

LO membership may be the difference

While I don’t have stats, I would venture a guess that the majority of utility hits come from non-members. Because only 25 – 30 per cent of the landscapers belong to LO, that means that 70 – 75 per cent are non-members. This means that three out of every four are not getting the locate message.

I know that to those reading this article I am preaching to the converted, however, I know that we still have far too many utility strikes each year. One solution is to sign-up more members.
Membership has many hidden benefits. One way to get exposure is through this publication, which promotes locate requests and a “call before you dig” mentality. People who attend our winter workshops get locate exposure. And, there is locate information from four different organizations with booths at Congress, in addition to Congress seminars on the subject. Think about it, avoiding the cost of only one utility hit expense would pay for seven to eight years of membership in LO.

The ultimate way to inform our industry is by having more contractors join LO. They will obtain underground information automatically.  I know that LO has the best communication and information sharing network of almost any other industry in Canada. Our communications department does outstanding work. New members can better understand the ramifications and consequences of not getting locates, and they can also communicate this message to other non-members.

If you want to bring our industry utility hits down, save our industry contractors a lot of time and money and solidify the whole horticultural industry, then each member of LO should pledge to bring in one new member in the next 12 months.

It can be done, but it needs focus and effort. One new member is the challenge for each of you! This will allow us to meet our original goal of reducing our hits 50 per cent in three years. Will you try?

One way is to challenge a new member when they join to get involved and to bring in another new member during their first 12 months of membership. Do your part to reduce utility hits, improve our industry record in the underground world by bringing in a new member. It will help our industry in so many ways. Are you willing to accept this challenge?
Terry Murphy can be reached at