August 15, 2010
Within the next few weeks, Landscape Ontario and the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) will review plans to attack the issue of utility locates.

Terry Murphy, former LO manager of human resource development, conducted a study on the problems of locates in Ottawa in Spring, 2010. He says, “Our industry has been leading the number of hits of underground utilities for several years. It’s not only here in Canada, but we are also number one in the U.S., according to the ORCGA.”

Murphy continued, “I will be meeting with Jim Douglas, president of ORCGA, in the next couple of weeks to begin a plan to reduce the number of hits. The bulk of the strategy will be communications and bringing the message to the industry.”

He feels that the main reason landscapers hit underground utilities is because contractors don’t obtain locates, for one reason or another. “I want to the utilities to provide data on hits, so we can see the trends and measure the effectiveness of our efforts to reduce the number of hits.”

Murphy says now that after huge delays in the spring to receive locates, things are getting back to normal in Ottawa. He has outlined some recommendations for 2011 and beyond for the Ottawa Chapter and the entire

Alternative Locate Agreement (ALA)
All irrigation contractors and many landscapers should obtain ALAs so they can eliminate the need for locates on certain jobs and have the approval to dig over the telephone. This should start immediately.

ORCGA board
There is a need for the landscape industry to permanently continue to be on the ORCGA board of directors, so that problems such as the one this spring in Ottawa can be more quickly identified and resolved.

Forecast of locates required
One of the main reasons for the Ottawa locate problem was that the locate firms did not understand the demand side of their business. It would be prudent to give them a forecast in January, which will go a long way to prevent unexpected demands. If all their customers gave locate forecasts in January, the problems would be identified long before April.

Industry meeting with locate company
The industry should take the initiative to call a meeting with the locate companies in December or January, so that each can discuss better ways of serving each other. It seems that both sides were operating in a vacuum, before it was determined that we were in the middle of a nightmare.

Join an ORCGA local chapter —ORCGA has set-up local councils or chapters similar to Landscape Ontario. Murphy suggests that LO Chapters get onto the respective ORCGA Councils, as it will provide local networking.