May 6, 2019
Terry MurphyThe latest data from the Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) from the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA ) indicates the total number of underground utility hits in the province of Ontario are down compared to 2017.

The number of utility strikes reduced from 5,306 in 2017 to 5,042 in 2018 — a reduction of five per cent. While this number does not represent a significant decrease (barely 300), it is certainly great news for the damage prevention industry. However, the number one reason for utility hits and the resulting damage remains the same — contractors are not requesting locates before digging. This very disturbing fact continues to be the norm year after year. In Ontario, calling for locates before excavating is the law. It is also a free service that can potentially save your life and thousands of dollars in property damage. When will contractors finally learn the first, and most important step, is to call for locates prior to digging?

Locate requests up, notifications down

The number of requests for locates to ON1CALL increased by 2.8 per cent in 2018 over 2017. Interestingly enough, the number of notifications decreased by more than 10 per cent. This means there were fewer utility infrastructures on these properties as compared to 2017. The number of notifications in 2018 were 6,101,675 compared to 6,778,240 in 2017.This could be one of the main reasons for the overall reduction of utility hits from 2017 to 2018.

Green profession utility hit performance over the past three years

SECTOR GROUP 2016 2017 2018 PER CENT OF CHANGE 2018/2017
Landscaping 358 344 330 -4.1%
Fencing 437 437 479 +9.6%
Irrigation 8 12 8 -33%
Waterways 3 2 1 -50%
Agriculture 2 4 1 -75%
Total Green Industry 808 799 819 +2.5%

Comments on the green profession

The table gives the complete picture for the green profession for 2018. The two most significant groups in the sector are fencing and landscaping. Also included are irrigation, waterways, and agriculture, which make up about one per cent of the profession, having less impact on the overall totals. While the landscaping sector continues to reduce its hits by about four per cent annually, fencing increased almost 10 per cent last year. Fencing represents about 60 per cent of all utility hits in the green profession. The numbers show the fencing sector needs immediate attention. We need to put an action plan in place for the fencing industry and they must make a major effort to reduce underground utility hits in 2019. The total underground utility hits for the green industry increased 2.5 per cent in 2018 over 2017.

Reason for underground utility damage remain the same

Again this year, the number one reason given for the majority of damages is that excavating contractors did not call for locates. The second reason is that contractors are not following best practices when digging within the tolerance zone (one metre on either side of the locate line). Once again, we have to highlight these two major reasons. At all ORCGA Geographic Council meetings, we stress to excavating contractors: digging should take place unless you call ON1CALL for locates; that special care must be exercised in the digging process, and that every company should encourage their fellow contracting firms to join the ORCGA. When followed, all of these actions can help the industry to reduce underground utility hits.


The year 2018 was a good one for the damage prevention industry. The total number of underground utility hits was lower than the previous year. As we continue to educate young people in apprenticeship programs, educate contractors and home owners at event like Canada Blooms and the National Home Show, and increase advertising to the public on radio and television, we help to get ON1CALL and Call Before You Dig messaging out to more and more people, keeping everyone safe. Through the continued efforts of the Geographic Councils and continuing article in Landscape Ontario magazine and Fence Focus, our communication efforts have even more reach. Our ultimate goal is zero utility hits, no damages, and no inquiries.
Terry Murphy CLM