By Anna Guy

Underground infrastructure—everything from cable, line, pipe, conduit or structure used to gather, store or convey products or services beneath the ground surface—keep Ontario homes and businesses supplied with warmth, power, communications, computer data and water. Preservation of this infrastructure is paramount and the mission of the ORGCA, the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance.

Representing over 500 members of Ontario’s damage prevention industry, including municipalities, utility companies, construction and safety organizations companies, the ORGCA was created as the voice of utility infrastructure damage prevention.

Doug Lapp, President and CEO of the ORGCA, says the organization is committed to maintaining the highest standards of safety for the public, construction workers and public infrastructure. The ORGCA is the Ontario Chapter of the Canadian Common Ground Alliance and is the oldest chapter in the country representing over 90 per cent of Ontario’s damage prevention industry.

The primary objective of the ORGCA is to raise utility damage prevention awareness by producing practical tools and services for use in the field, most notably, the CCGA Underground Infrastructure Damage Prevention Best Practices 3.0 which describes excavation best practices around utilities. This document is updated every two years and is the framework that, when adhered to, works to ensure safety for the public and workers.

In practical terms, think of it this way: A contractor brings in new machine operators to a site—the operators will need to understand a locate ticket, how to excavate around certain types of utilities, and various safety issues. The ORCGA not only provides this information in written form but provides training as well.

In an effort to fulfil its mandate of strengthening existing excavation processes and to prevent damage to underground infrastructure, the ORGCA provides runs Damage Prevention Technician courses, designed to teach students on achieving competence in locating buried utilities, to understand the fundamental principals of locating, to properly operate the equipment they are using, as well as an achieve an excellent grasp of the subtleties of locating the many and varied types of buried utilities.

Because of this, the ORCGA and its members know that their efforts have made, and will continue to make, communities and infrastructure assets across Ontario safer.

“We also collect vital data and perform analysis of the root causes of damage to underground infrastructure,” says Lapp. Amongst the most exhaustive reports the ORGCA puts out is DIRT Report, or Damage Information Reporting Tool Report. “The DIRT Report identifies the root causes of events, and uses that information to prevent or reduce damage through public education, focused damage prevention programs and improved industry practices,” says Lapp.

Lapp travels to ORCGA’s 13 different chapters across Ontario, as well as presenting to various contractors, associations and municipalities to deliver Dig Safe messaging. Often these meetings will unearth a specific stakeholder issue which the ORCGA can then work to address, make tangible changes, and potentially save more lives.

The responsibilities of the ORGCA are very serious and focussed on the business of safe excavation, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any play! At the time of our conversation, Lapp was in Oshawa hosting The ORGCA Locate Rodeo and Excavator Challenge. This unique event puts the spotlight on Locators who are on the front lines of the Damage Prevention Industry and helps to promote the significance of their role in the excavating industry. The locators come together and demonstrate their expertise and superior locating skills in a competitive and friendly environment. The spotlight also shines brightly on Excavator Operators, as well. The Excavator Challenge event complements the Locate Rodeo with a skills competition from “the other side of the shovel”. The ORCGA welcomed operators from municipalities, infrastructure owners and utility contractors.

Going forward, the ORGCA will continuing Damage Prevention momentum by initiating a task force that will look into the contentious Late Utility Locate issue that has been affecting construction sites across Ontario. Late Locates are a result of complex interdependencies, multiple stakeholders and varying factors like crowded underground infrastructure, a limited right-of-way space and high locate volumes in a compressed construction season. The ORCGA invites stakeholders to voice their concerns at upcoming chapter meetings happening throughout the province.