March 15, 2020
Terry MurphyLandscape Ontario’s Congress 2020 was another very successful event, drawing over 15,000 visitors. I spent three days at the show in the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) booth where I met several old friends and many new landscape contractors. I was very surprised to hear both groups mention a very serious on-going problem: late locates. In the spring rush, this is a perennial problem, but until Congress, I was unaware of the exact magnitude of this issue.


About 13 years ago, Landscape Ontario was asked by ORCGA president, Jim Douglas, to join the ORCGA Board of Directors to represent the landscaping, fencing and irrigation industries on the board. I, in turn, was asked by Tony DiGiovanni and continue to be your industry representative to this day. At that point, the allotted time for the locate industry to have utility locate markings on the ground was three days from the time a contractor called ON1CALL. About five years ago, Bill 8 was introduced to the Ontario Legislature which then made it law to have locates marked within five days. This timeframe was deemed fair and agreed upon by all industry stakeholders. It was assumed by all that five days was reasonable and acceptable and to this day, the law still stands.

Current status

At Congress this year, almost every contractor that came into the ORCGA exhibit complained about late locates. I was surprised. Their comments were very upsetting because nothing seems to have changed over the last decade. Many contractors indicated that in some cases, locates were up to 15-20 days late. Late locates cost contractors time and money. When I get a call from a contractor in trouble over lack of locates, I help them out by first calling the locate company, and then referring them to Rob Matthews at ON1CALL (519-265-8006, ext. 8820). Matthews is the locate police, with the power to issue a fine to the locate company for not complying to the five-day Ontario law for locater providers.


After hearing about this issue, I inquired about the number of fines that are regularly issued by ON1CALL for late locates. The answer I received was that they did not think there were any fines issued on a regular basis. Do you know of any law that is regularly broken without any consequences or fines? This is ridiculous! It is very difficult to establish any standard practices without a deterrent or consequence for non-compliance. Even when bringing up children, you have to establish a standard practice and if they do not follow, there will be some form of corrective action or consequence. If non-compliance is not challenged with corrective action, what is the incentive to change the performance? It’s no wonder locates are late when there is no consequence for the locate provider to make sure it is done on time. There needs to be some form of penalty for locate providers who are not following the law. ON1CALL needs to review their position in this regard and you will surely be hearing more about this issue over the coming months.


The issue of late locates has already been discussed by the ORCGA Board (which includes representatives from ON1CALL and the locate providers). ON1CALL recently brought 25 damage prevention industry people together to review the late locate problem and to look for possible solutions. The ORCGA Damage Prevention Symposium in February also included a panel discussion on this issue. Hopefully, dialogue will lead to some positive solutions.

At this time, my advice to contractors is to get their locate requests in early and to assume it may take up to 10-15 days to get locate markings on the ground. Keep me posted on any late locates so I can make sure your feedback gets noted into the system. Get you requests in early so you are not wasting your valuable time and hard-earned money.
Terry Murphy CLM