June 15, 2011
By Terry Murphy CLP

Terry MurphyEach spring always check and service all your equipment before starting up your landscape operation. You must attend meetings, planning sessions, job reviews, but you also must check on how you will handle underground excavation challenges this season. Here is an underground checklist for your consideration:

Get locates
Do not dig unless you have called Ontario One Call and received your locate paperwork. By the way, it’s the law.

Underground safety meeting
You should make sure that all your people are aware of the dangers that exist underground, and that they cannot dig unless the locate company has marked (painted) the soil. Have your locate paperwork on site at the time you excavate.

Job planning with the locate company
You should give the locate company a month’s advance notice on all the jobs that require locates, with approximate dates of when you plan to start. This will help the locate company have the utilities marked out when you require them.

One metre hand dig rule
Remember that if you are digging within one metre (39.37 inches) of a marked utility line, you cannot use machinery or equipment, but must carefully hand dig.

Know what to do if you hit a utility line
Immediately call the utility and/or Ontario One Call. Record all information and complete your Accident Investigation Report. Take a photograph of the utility line, the site and surroundings. Write out whatever you can to describe the hit, including why you think it happened. (If it goes to court, it will be months or years later and you may need all this information.)

Review ORCGA best practices manual
Make sure you and your landscape crews review all the important excavation rules before you dig. Contact the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) for a copy of the best practices manual for excavation (orcg@cogeco.ca), or call 1-866-446-4493.

Alternate locate agreements save time and money
Consider getting an ALA from each local utility in your area. Once you have completed the process, you may get approval over the phone to proceed with your excavation without having the locate company actually put the markings on the soil.

Discuss the costs of hitting a line
Most hits will cost a minimum of $800 from the Technical Standards and Safety Association and a repair bill in the area of $2,000 from the individual utility. You will look at approximately $3,000 minimum, not counting overhead time. At a profit level of five per cent after tax, your company will need sales of more than $60,000 just to cover this unnecessary cost.

Preventing underground utility hits is mainly about employee awareness and making sure you follow a couple of simple rules. The main prevention rule is to get locates before you dig. Remember, “Get Locates and Excavate Safely.”
Please send your comments, suggestions and ideas to tvmurphy@ca.inter.net.