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Australian Locating Services – The Standard AS5488 

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Australian Locating Services (ALS) have evolved with the increase in quality greatly over the past decade, and so has Australian Locating Service provided by professional locating companies around the country.

Australian Locating Services in Sydney Harbour provided by Geoscope Utility Detection Company Pty Ltd
Australian Locating Services provided by Geoscope Locating

Over the years, Australian Locating Services for different companies have continually evolved and adapted to the changing needs of their clients and the industry. Various utility-locating companies have invested in the development of new technologies and techniques to improve the accuracy and efficiency of their services and have also focused on building strong relationships with their clients and partners.

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One key area of focus for Australian Locating Services over the years has been the development of their digital mapping capabilities. Different companies have invested in advanced mapping software and technologies that allow them to more accurately and efficiently map underground assets, including utilities such as water, gas, and telecommunications infrastructure.

In addition to the core utility location and mapping services, Australian Locating Service providers have also diversified their offerings over the years to include a range of related qualification upgrades in providing their services, such as project management, asset management, and training.

Australian Locating Services has played a key role in the utility location and mapping industry in Australia over the years and has helped to improve the accuracy and efficiency of these services through its focus on innovation and client relationships.

All of this has been a great boost for the utility locating industry and the wider civil and construction industry, especially the standardisation in locating classification and utility mapping and the stringent testing on locating candidates going through the certified locator assessment. 

Using the subsurface utility engineering (SUE) and subsurface utility information (SUI) classification processes, which involve accurate mapping and identification of underground services, locating has become an important aspect of civil engineering that helps to ensure the safety and efficiency of construction projects by avoiding damage to existing utilities and preventing costly delays. 

Australian locating professionals use a combination of specialised equipment, such as ground-penetrating radar and electromagnetic pipe and cable locators, as well as traditional surveying techniques to locate and identify the position, depth, and type of underground utilities.

Now, there goes Australian Standard AS5488.

Australian Locating Services adhering to Australian Locating Standard, service provided by Geoscope
Utility Marking Service adhering to Australian Locating Standard

Australian Standard AS5488

AS5488 is an Australian locating standard for the location and identification of underground services. It provides guidelines for the accurate location and identification of underground utilities, including telecommunications, electricity, gas, water, and sewage, in order to prevent damage to these services during excavation and construction work. 

The standard is intended to help ensure the safety of workers and the public, and to minimise the risk of costly repairs and service disruptions. It covers a range of topics, including the use of locating equipment, the marking of utility locations, and the recording and reporting of utility information.

The Australian Standard AS5488 which Classification of Subsurface Utility Information has four classification levels.

Classification of Subsurface Utility Information showcasing Quality Levels

To tell you a bit about Subsurface Utility Information or SUI, it is a classification system that is used to help ensure that appropriate levels of accuracy and precision are maintained in the subsurface utility data, which is critical for the successful planning and execution of construction projects.

Now, I mentioned that there are four SUI Classification Levels, let us go through them one by one.

The Australian Locating SUI Classification Levels

Subsurface Classification Utility Location Level A (QL-A / SUI Level A)

“QL-A” is the highest quality level, which means that the utility location information is considered to be accurate and reliable. This is the highest level of utility information accuracy. 

Australian Locating Services in Sydney showcasing QLA or Quality Level A in Classification of Utility Information provided by Geoscope Utility Detection Company Pty Ltd
QLA or Quality Level A in Classification of Utility Information service provided by Geoscope

This classification is typically used for utility lines that have been precisely located using survey-grade equipment and techniques, and whose positions have been verified through physical inspection. The “QL-A” classification is often used for critical utilities, such as gas and electrical lines, which must be accurately located to ensure public safety. It involves comprehensive data collection of underground services, including the use of advanced technologies such as ground penetrating radar (GPR) and vacuum excavation to record the actual location and depth in a 3-dimensional view.

If you are interested to know how Ground Penetrating Radar works, here’s an article for you!

Ground Penetrating Radar – A GPR Expert’s Guide

This article is an expert’s guide on how Ground Penetrating Radar works in locating underground utilities.

Subsurface Classification Utility Location Level B (QL-B / SUI Level B)

“QL-B” is a classification used in utility locations to indicate the quality level of subsurface data gathered during a survey using a quality electromagnetic locating trace signal. This level involves less comprehensive data collection than Level A, where the service has not been potholed or confirmed.

Australian Locating Services in Sydney showcasing QLB or Quality Level B in Classification of Utility Information provided by Geoscope Utility Detection Company Pty Ltd
QLB or Quality Level B in Classification of Utility Information service provided by Geoscope

The QL-B classification is typically used for projects that require a higher level of precision and reliability, such as those involving infrastructure installations or repairs.

It indicates that the data is of good quality and has been collected using advanced techniques and equipment, such as electromagnetic locators. This level of classification is often used for mapping utilities that are buried deep underground and require a higher level of accuracy and detail.

Subsurface Classification Utility Location Level C (QL-C / SUI Level C)

Australian Locating Services in Sydney showcasing QLC or Quality Level C in Classification of Utility Information provided by Geoscope Utility Detection Company Pty Ltd
QLC or Quality Level C in Classification of Utility Information service provided by Geoscope

“QL-C”, is a classification level that involves even less comprehensive data collection than Level B and may involve the use of simple techniques such as lining up manholes and utility features, GPR targets, and information from Before You Dig Australia plans used in conjunction with site walk inspections.

Subsurface Classification Utility Location Level D (QL-D / SUI Level D)

“QL-D” is the lowest level of accuracy, therefore the lowest quality level for subsurface classification and utility location. This means that the accuracy and reliability of the information gathered during this process are not guaranteed and may not be sufficient for use in making important decisions. It is important to carefully consider the limitations of QL-D data before relying on it for any purpose.

Australian Locating Services in Sydney showcasing QLCDor Quality Level D in Classification of Utility Information provided by Geoscope Utility Detection Company Pty Ltd
QLD or Quality Level D in Classification of Utility Information service provided by Geoscope

It involves the least comprehensive data collection and may involve no field data collection at all. Instead, it relies on existing records, design information and documents such as BYDA plans data and construction drawings.

In general, it is recommended to use higher-quality level data whenever possible to ensure the most accurate and reliable results.

If you want to know further details about the four subsurface classifications in utility information, the article below is for you!

Underground Utility Markings Explained

If you want to know further details regarding the Australian Locating standards, particularly the Four Classification Levels in Subsurface Utility Investigation, this article is for you
Article

Importance of knowing the Australian Locating Standards

It is important to be aware of the Australian Locating Standard because it provides guidelines for safely and accurately locating and identifying underground utilities in Australia.  This is important because damage to underground utilities during excavation or construction work can result in serious injuries to workers, damage to property, and disruptions to essential services such as electricity, gas, water, and telecommunications. Adhering to AS5488 can help prevent these types of incidents from occurring, and can help ensure the safety of workers and the public, as well as minimise the risk of costly repairs and service disruptions. 

It is also crucial for contractors and other professionals who work in the construction and excavation industry in Australia to be familiar with AS5488, as it may be a requirement for certain types of work ensuring the safe and efficient operation of the underground infrastructure network in Australia, and for protecting the safety of those who work on or near it.

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Patricia Cupiado

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