August 15, 2011
By Terry Murphy CLP

Terry MurphyThis will give you an update on the issues within the underground industry over the last 12 months.

The Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) continues to be the driving force for the collective management of the underground infrastructure in Ontario. Here are the main issues and status as we enter the summer months of 2011.

The goal of the ORCGA is to promote utility damage prevention for all excavation firms and to the public through education, training and awareness in Ontario. Work is currently underway to create a national organization.

LO on ORCGA board

LO continues to serve on the ORCGA board of directors and supports all damage prevention initiatives by ensuring that all our members and other horticultural firms are up-to-date on our damage prevention efforts. LO has been represented on the ORCGA board for the past eight years.

One of our proudest achievements is to see the statistics on underground utility hits for the landscape industry reduced by over 34 per cent for 2010 over 2009 results. This is a great accomplishment.

The important message that supports the work to see a continual decline in underground utility hits is, “Always get locates before you dig.” Never start a job that the equipment operator does not have the locate paperwork on their person.

Follow the Best Practice Guide when excavating. Contractor costs for an average utility hit is about $4,000, plus a lot of administration time.

WSIB audit

Utility hits are recorded by ORCGA’s Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT), Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) and the Ministry of Labour, and may trigger an audit from WSIB.

Remember that locates provided by Ontario One Call are only from the street to the house inlet. Any private lines to backyard swimming pool heaters, change rooms, barbecues, etc., require separate locates by the owner. Do not dig in a backyard without asking the owner about any private underground utility lines that may be present. The equipment operator is responsible for making sure that the owner has provided private backyard locates.

ORCGA has regional councils (similar to the LO Chapter structure) and is looking for LO firms to be part of the organization’s governance by participating in two to three meetings a year. See the ORCGA website, or call Jim Douglas at 1-866-446-4493 if you wish to be part of this organization.

Bill 180 cancelled

As I wrote in my previous column, the proposed One-Call legislation received first and second readings in the provincial government this year, however, Bill 180 as it was known, was cancelled when the Liberal government ended the current session at Queen’s Park and called a fall election. MPP Bob Bailey, PC representative for Sarnia, (who sponsored Bill 180 as a private member’s bill) has a commitment from the provincial Conservatives and leader Tim Hudak, to approve Bill 180 if elected in October.

An improved record

Our industry has made great progress in the last 18 months in improving our damage prevention management. Thank you for your concerns and your commitment in getting locates and for being part of our industry improvement efforts. Let’s continue our improvement to reduce hits and support our government committee in contacting all provincial parties to support Bill 180 after the Oct. 6, 2011 election.
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