June 15, 2014
By Terry Murphy CLP

Terry MurphyHere we are well into another spring start-up season. Already we are hearing about landscapers who can’t obtain utility locates on time in order to start excavation on their project.

The standard time for obtaining locates according to Bill 8, the Ontario One Call Act, is five days, yet some reports indicate it is currently taking 10 to 15 working days. It may take a couple of months to work out the kinks, but a five-day locate standard will happen in Ontario.

In the past there was no real process for registering formal complaints and getting results on tardy locates. Complaints came to either the utility, the locate company or Ontario One Call. Everything was measured on an established target of five days. The problem was that the system was not set up to correct deficiencies, nor to assign responsibilities and accountabilities and penalize offenders. Well, things have changed.

It took seven years of lobbying by the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA), many meetings, along with Conservative and NDP politicians sponsoring Bill 8, for our damage prevention industry to obtain passage of this Bill in the Provincial Legislature. The recent set of provincial regulations were completed and approved in March of this year to establish ground rules of operation for this standard system of five days.

It is not only cast in concrete, but Ontario One Call has been given enforcement responsibility under the law, whereby offenders can receive a $100 to $10,000 fine for each individual ticket violation. In other words, if the contractor doesn’t get his locate in five days from when it is called in, someone has broken the law and can be subject to a major penalty. This is now serious business, and no other province in Canada has this mandatory legislation.

If you are finding a problem after submitting your paperwork, whereby your locate request is not marked on the ground in five days, then the the law has been broken. You should call Steve Waugh at Ontario One Call, 519-265-8006, ext. 8808 with the ticket number. Steve is the enforcement officer for this important law.

The Investigations and Compliance Department at Ontario One Call is committed to researching your complaint and getting back to you with a quick response. If in fact, Ontario One Call finds that a utility or locate company is at fault, it will be corrected immediately. If Ontario One Call feels that there are an unusually large number of locates that are not in compliance of the five-day standard, fines can be levied per individual locate ticket. The execution of this regulatory enforcement will be independent from political or other influence.  

This new system will have transparency, accountability and responsibility. All are clearly defined. As regulations proposed under the Ontario Underground Infrastructure Notification System Act 2012 move closer to becoming a reality, it’s vital for members to ensure that all buried infrastructure is registered with Ontario One Call by June 19, 2014. This also carries penalties for firms who do not register.

Remember, we had a very prolonged and extra cold winter starting last January, which has delayed the industry start-up by a couple of weeks. Now there is a large influx of locate requests. Everyone is reacting to this peak volume and it might take a short while for all firms to get caught up. Everyone has limited staff. You can assist the whole process by getting your locate requests into Ontario One Call as early as possible, and by giving the date that you are targeting your excavation start up. This will greatly assist the process.

We have come a long way in establishing this new system of consistent five-day locates. Registration by all infrastructure owners must take place by the end of June, 2014. All stakeholders, including locate companies and utilities, have been part of the legislation and regulation development and every industry stakeholder has committed to achieve this five-day locate standard. If it doesn’t happen, the follow-up tools are there to quickly get action, so that your excavating jobs will not be delayed. Enforcement will provide the industry with assurance of success.

It has been a pleasure for this writer to represent the landscape and fencing industry throughout this process, as a member of the ORCGA Board.
Terry Murphy can be reached at tvmurphy@ca.inter.net.