March 15, 2008
By Terry Murphy

Did you ever think about the reasons we have so many strikes of underground lines in Ontario such as natural gas, hydro, telephone, cable, fiberoptics, water and sewer, lines? The major reason is that the excavation contractor does not call for locates in advance. He starts work and hopes not to strike a major utility line. In Ontario, 65 per cent of all underground damages were caused because contractors did not call for locates. In those cases, 80 per cent of all equipment-related strikes were caused by backhoes.

In the landscape sector, 44 per cent of all recorded damages were caused because the landscaper did not get locates. Many of you know from experience that this can be expensive. One Oakville landscaper told me that he hit a small gas line and by the time he was finished with the Technical Safety Standards Association (TSSA), it had cost him $8,000. One of our members in Oshawa told me that he had obtained locates but they were incorrect. When he dug and struck a fiberoptics line, he virtually shut down Oshawa. If he had not called for locates before beginning to dig, he would have been out of business. Another contractor dug without locates at Six Points Plaza in Etobicoke. He struck a gas main and it blew up, killing six people. This case is currently in the courts.

The moral of the story is “DO NOT DIG IF YOU DO NOT HAVE LOCATES.” Even staking a tree without locates can cause damage to the underground structure. Your chance of hitting a buried utility line is good, so why take the chance? Call for locates at least a week in advance of your work. It will pay you dividends in the long run.

In Ontario, call 1-800-400-2255 to obtain underground locates.