DIRT Report 2020: Excavation practices top cause of facility events

DIRT Report 2020: Excavation practices top cause of facility events
August 4, 2021

DIRT is a Common Ground Alliance acronym for Damage Information Reporting Tool. This tool is used to collect stakeholder’s data regarding excavation incidents that could or have led to utility damage.  This information is used to produce an annual DIRT Report, which provides stakeholders valuable insights on utility damage events and the root causes of the events for the given year.

In March 2021, the Ontario Region Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) released its 2020 DIRT Report, delivering the following key findings surrounding damages to underground infrastructure in Ontario.

Key 2020 DIRT Report insights:

  • 4,566 damages were reported
  • 18 damages occurred per working day
  • 68% of reported events derive from the Toronto Region (includes municipalities of Peel, Toronto, and York)

Improper Excavation Practices #1 root cause of utility damages:

  • 43% of total damages reported are due to improper excavation practices
  • Improper excavation practices, after underground utilities were marked, include:
    • Excavator failed to maintain clearance of verified marks
    • Marks faded or not maintained
    • Excavator dug before verifying marks by test-hole (pot-hole)
    • Excavator neglected to protect, shore, and/or support facilities
    • Failed to use hand tools where required

Failure to Request a Locate is the #2 contributor to utility damages:

  • 39% of total damages reported is a result of no locate request; a steady issue for over 4 years
  • 58% of no locate damages are attributed to Contractor/Developers
  • 68% of no locate events involved hazardous infrastructure (natural gas & electrical)
  • 41% of damages involved telecommunications

Damage Prevention = Liability Protection

Unknowingly cutting a utility line can cause a home, neighbourhood, or even an entire section of a city or town to lose power. It can be worse if you strike a high-pressure gas line. Significant risks and liabilities arise from digging before locating utilities within your project area.

To dig safely and protect yourself from risk and liability for damages, you must obtain locates for the project area first. It is the law in Ontario. Charges and fines could be laid by the Ministry of Labour and the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA), if you do not follow safe digging practices and hit and underground infrastructure. You may also end up liable for the damages and ongoing disruption costs.

Damage to Underground Infrastructure is Preventable

Being aware of the location of buried utilities before you start any construction or landscaping project will help your project go smoothly and without unnecessary costs associated with liability or project overruns. Whether you are a homeowner or contractor, make sure you request and receive complete locate data prior to breaking ground by contacting Ontario One Call first.


multiVIEW Locates is the largest supplier of private locates across Ontario, we also fulfill numerous multi-year public utility locate contracts. Our team is Damage Prevention Technician (DPT) certified and committed to the highest standards of Safety and Quality. We’re also a long-standing member of thORCGA and actively participate in Dig Safe and Locator Safety Awareness campaigns to generate awareness around damage prevention. 


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