7 Easy Actionable Steps To Get The Most Out of Your Utility Locator


In Sydney, and all around Australia, the practice of locating utilities is essential. 

It is the critical first step in any building project, no matter whether you are in the private or commercial industry. Ensuring that the utility services are located before construction works commence allows you to minimise disruption and the costs associated with unexpected utility damages. 

We all know that most project sites have some form of utility work associated with them. Some are straightforward, others not so much. But the one thing I would say I’ve found when working on any construction site is the more information you have before starting the job, the better your chance of carrying out utility locating works safely and efficiently.

Geoscope Utility Locating Street Marking Services

Geoscope Utility Marking Services

As a Utility Locator doing jobs for various companies and businesses each day, the question that is posed most frequently is ‘how to get the best results from my utility locators’.  

Below are seven easy-to-follow steps to make the process of carrying out a utility locate easier. These seven actionable steps outlined below are what the Geoscope team and I have found work best for our field technicians, project managers and clients.

Table of Contents

1. Plan ahead 

2. Provide the utility locators with as much information about the scope of work as possible

3. Obtain all available information before starting the work- plans, as built, designs

4. Understanding and reviewing the work activity thoroughly

5. Communicate with everyone involved in your project 

6. Understanding what needs further investigation

7. Reach out if you aren’t sure. We are here to help

Now, let’s take a look at the first of seven easy, actionable steps to get the most out of your utility locator.

Geoscope Utility Marking Services in Sydney NSW

Utility locating Markings Sydney

1. Plan your Project, Plan your Schedule, Plan your Time 

There’s nothing worse than that rushed feeling. 

Trying to sort out what’s happening on site tomorrow and hoping you can scrape together some ‘B class’ contractors to help out when you didn’t plan out your job in advance.

I mean, you could get away with it, but what happens if things take a turn for the worse?

You want to be looking after the teams and contractors who are doing their best to look after you.

That means planning out your schedule and booking in advance so we can prepare everything that goes along with the project when it comes to professional utility locating.

2. Provide the utility locators with as much information about the scope of work as possible:

  •  What are you doing?

Our team needs to know what you are up to. We want to know every detail so we can help out in the best possible way. When we know if there’s a utility in the vicinity of your work area, we’ve got it covered.

There is a big difference in the excavation work and styles of digging that could affect how you approach a job.

Are you planning some type of vertical or horizontal boring, or is it specialised mechanical excavation?

Are you piling or drilling for footings or testing for soil or rock investigations?

Is the job just for planning or design or is the road being saw cut or milled for road resurfacing?

Knowing exactly what you are planning for your work activity is going to give our team the best idea to help you solve your problem of working around underground utilities.

  • When are you planning to start the work?

Is it a week from now, or is it proposed to start next year? 

The time frame lets us know if we are in a position to fulfil your requirements or for us to let you know straight up if we can’t make it due to prior commitments. 

It saves us from wasting your time and ours. Again, we know how valuable your time is. 

It also lets us know if we need to allocate extra resources to complete your project on time and efficiently.

  • Where are you working? 

Exact street address – You will be amazed at how many RFQs or emails we get, and all it says is we’re planning excavation work along Parramatta Rd. I don’t know if you know this, but Parramatta Rd runs for about 23km. It also has some sections of very intense underground services and some not-too-intense underground services.

Having the right street address and possibly even crossing streets in some situations helps our team plan out the schedule, and emergency procedures and also plan with Before You Dig Australia to request plans for your work site.

We like to plan, and having the right information from the start helps our team plan the best for your project.

3. Obtain all available information before starting the work plans, as built, designs etc.

Scope of work markups

It doesn’t have to be fancy. We get all sorts of markups to come in, ranging from hand-drawn with pen or marker to full-blown CAD files. 

One of the easiest ways to communicate your required locating area these days is to send over an aerial or google maps image with the marked-up scope of work. This can be screenshot straight from the phone or computer in a matter of minutes.

This helps us get an idea of the area you need to be covered quickly and accurately. We know what needs to be covered and you don’t need to worry about us missing out on a section that wasn’t talked about as we have it marked on a plan clear as day.

Current DBYD plans covering the scope of work. 

Dial Before You Dig! It’s legislation in New South Wales and all Sydney sites that are planning to dig or break ground should have DBYD or BYDA plans available on site. 

We need to know what services are known in the location you are preparing to work in, and BYDA is the best way to get all the available plans from registered asset owners. 

Don’t get us wrong, we also do our BYDA request for plans, but we need to allow 48hrs for all plans to be returned to us. More info here

Allowing enough time before the proposed excavation works are to begin and the time to order the plans is essential so you receive the plans in time to assess them.

If you need help with ordering and compiling the DBYD – BYDA plans using the Geoscope System, reach out and we’ll be happy to help out. 

Design drawings and plans covering the scope of work. 

You’re planning work and we’re pretty sure you’re not winging it. It could be all in your head, but you must have some sort of plan you’re working to. 

If you provide the design drawings, not only does it help us utility locators understand the lengths we need to go to complete our work, we will deliver the best possible outcomes once we are aware of all the information available to us.

For example, the difference between utility locating for trenching works at 1.4 metres deep is a lot different to utility locating for road resurfacing at 200mm. Many deep services that would not need to be investigated for road resurfacing now need to be looked at with this deep trenching activity.

Geoscope Utility Marking Services on street

Geoscope Utility Detection Services Markings Sydney

4. Understanding and reviewing the work activity thoroughly

Completing a walk-through of the completed utility site markings so we know what utilities we need to target and how deep they possibly are. 

Some activities won’t require deep services to be located, and some will.  

Having a complete understanding of what we’ve carried out for your project will help you become aware of how deep utilities are and where they are located.

Completing this walk-through with the Certified Locator who carried out the utility survey is going to give you all the insights into what needs to be done when completing your excavating activities.

5. Understanding what needs further investigation

Unfortunately, not everything can be located the first time, and further investigation may be needed, such as: 

  • Get additional information from the asset owners. 
  • Further traffic or pedestrian management
  • Access to inaccessible or restricted areas at the time of the utility survey
  • Carrying out non-destructive potholing works 
  • Surveying actual depths and location of utilities using GPS or total station

Pro Tip:  To ensure the best possible utility locating, we need to employ the best techniques available. We encourage clients to consider all of the locating options when it comes to how we locate underground services because we want them to get the best outcome for their project.

6.  Communicate with everyone involved in your project 

The more you communicate, the better the results will be. 

When you communicate with your customer and other parties involved in your project, they will be able to provide you with accurate information about what outcomes they want out of the project. 

This will allow them to give you the best possible quote for your services because they know exactly what you want from a utility locator. 

The success of any project depends on communication between all parties involved. This means communicating with the utility company, client and their management team, consultants or the project manager working on the project,  and anyone else who may be affected by the work being completed.  

Additionally, communication is the best way to keep everyone safe from the risks and hazards on site. 

This way, everyone will be on the same page about what could go wrong and what needs to be done to avoid it. 

If you fail to do this, it could lead to potential danger and even injury. 

It also causes unnecessary delays when people don’t understand what they need to be doing.

7. Reach out if you aren’t sure. We are here to help

You are not only paying for a service on-site. Our team loves to see you succeed and want to see you win every job.

If you aren’t sure about the:

  • Utility markings
  • Utility depths
  • Utility Lines
  • Utility colours
  • How or what utility to pothole
  • How close can you dig to utilities
  • Who to call about a certain asset

Or anything else, the team at Geoscope are your friend when it comes to utility locator support.

Asking a few questions to your utility locator is not going to impede the project delivery, not at all. It can help everyone involved have a better understanding. 

The reason we created these steps is so that our team could get the maximum amount of information from you in the shortest amount of time. 

And trust us, these 7 steps will not only keep your project running smoothly and avoid costly delays, but it will also get us on to your site’s project locating needs as quickly as possible so that you can get back to concentrating on what matters – getting results for your business!

Sweet! You’ve made it to the end. Here’s your bonus content.

What happens when any of these 7 steps are not followed to help out your utility locating team?

Don’t dig until you know what you’re doing. 

And by now, I mean a successful utility location survey — not just a call-out and estimate. 

Some companies skip over this step because it’s time-consuming, but if you want to complete your work safely, following these seven actionable steps will give you the edge over your competitors. 

This include:

  • When you understand the location and extent of underground services at your project site, you’ll be able to plan your worksite activities accordingly. This way, your work is done quicker, meaning you can get your jobs done and move on to the next one without delays.  

  • You will have a better understanding of what underground services and utilities are on your work site by being proactive and helping out throughout the whole process.

  • You have more opportunities to make better profit margins on your projects with less chance of re-work and mistakes from not fully understanding and being aware of your responsibilities.

  • Happy teams make happy worksites. Keeping a major part of your construction team happy with all the right information and communications to get the job done will go a long way it’s your success.

In the end, it’s not all about the utility locating team being professional overall.  It’s about you keeping them well informed about the project. So do the right thing and follow these seven actionable steps and keep your utility locating team happy along the way.

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