An Introduction to AS5488.

A Guide to the Australian Standard of 5488.

What is AS5488?

AS5488 is an Australian Standard for the classification and management of subsurface utility information. AS5488 is a standard developed by Standards Australia titled "Classification of Subsurface Utility Information".

It provides guidelines for the consistent classification of information relating to subsurface utilities.

It provides a framework for the systematic and consistent management of information related to underground utilities, such as water and gas pipelines, electrical cables, and telecommunications lines.

The standard outlines the processes and procedures for the collection, recording, and sharing of information related to subsurface utilities, with the aim of reducing the risk of damage to these assets during construction and excavation activities.

AS5488 was first published in 2013, it has since been revised in 2019 and again in 2022 . It is widely used in the construction and engineering industries in Australia.

Who needs to know AS5488?

🧲Cable and Pipe Location Companies, πŸ› οΈ Builders, πŸ“ƒ contractors, 🦺excavation companies, πŸ›οΈcouncils, πŸ‘¨β€πŸŒΎ landscapers, πŸ‘·πŸΌunderground network maintenance workers, πŸ‘¨πŸ»β€πŸ”§plumbers and 🏑 DIY homeowners.

As such, the following groups of people may need to know about AS5488:

Engineers and utility professionals: AS5488 is intended to assist engineers and utility professionals in managing subsurface utility information, which is important for planning and executing infrastructure projects.

Government agencies and contractors: Government agencies and contractors responsible for infrastructure or construction projects may also need to know about AS5488 to ensure compliance with relevant standards and to manage subsurface utility information effectively.

Surveyors and other geospatial professionals: AS5488 provides guidance for classifying subsurface utility information in relation to geospatial data. Surveyors and other geospatial professionals probably need to know about AS5488 to ensure they have accurate and complete information for mapping and modeling purposes.

Overall, AS5488 is relevant to anyone involved in the planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance, or management of infrastructure projects that involve subsurface utilities.

Quality Levels Summary

In β€œAS5488 – 2013 – Classification of Subsurface Utility Information (SUI)” Quality Standards are as follows ( A,B,C or D) with a circle around it, this means the certainty that that mark. QLA, QLB, QLC and QLD.

An Ideal Example of Markout Syntax 

An example of a Quality B Level (QLB) Locate, Includes the following information.

  • The β’· represents the Quality Level
  • 02 represents depth level 01/100mm 02/200mm 03/300mm 12/1200mm
  • X exact location of all data.
  • C communication cable
  • P20 Pipe size and Material

All ground markings should be clearly communicated to the end user, all reports should include a copy of this standard, along with any details of attributes, legends etc.

However in the field and from a practical stand point sometimes the ground markings can be misinterpreted due to ground conditions, or markings getting weathered from rain or other environmental factors. Putting ground markings on dirt, uneven or rocky surfaces can cause problems in interrupting the marks correctly.

To fix these problems, good reporting systems are essential for communication about marking details, attributes and other metadata that needs documentation.  

An example of this is using white spray paint for communications on black surfaces and black spray paint on white surfaces. Any changes to spray-paint colors that are not inline with AS5488 (due to paint supplies, surfaces etc) must be clear in all subsequent reports.

A simple, efficient system for limited space is using reference numbers and X to mark exact locations. Example 001 X and reference 001 in your report to a surveyors/drafter.  Annotated photos 

Knowing  all marking types of surfaces and scopes is the best solution, there are many types such as.. spray paint, pegs, tags, metal/plastic signs and flags, Standard AS5488 Markings Stencil, Plastic, Metal and Wooden Pegs. Marker Pens, Chalk, Tape, crayon, marker whiskers.

To find these via google type "utility location identification markers".

AS588 Colors for Subsurface Utility Information (SUI) and Onsite Markings

AS 5488

Note: Due to paint supply and surfaces, colors may be different. A legend should be attached to any AS5488 Utility Locating Service Report.

Standard Utility Colors and Symbols.

CommunicationsWhite (or black when on white background)C
Fire ServiceRedF
Recycled WaterPurpleR
Storm WaterGreenSW

AS588 SUI Indication of Quality Levels Symbols 

The symbol QLA, QLB, QLC and QLD are used on site markings and throughout the SUI gathering, documenting and reporting process. Below is the Quality Level Symbol  Marking and there respective attached Quality Rating and Risk Ratings. These markings provide detailed information about accuracy, method of verification and confidence in each marking by whomever identified and located each utility service.

βœ… Quality Level A = Highest Quality / Lowest Risk

Physically Located, must be performed for all construction work involving utility assets

πŸ“‰ Quality Level B = Significant Risk Reduction

Utility Locator Service with maximum tolerance levels of +/- 300mm Horizontally and 500mm Vertically. 

⚠️ Quality Level C = Low Quality / Probability of Damage

Approximation of Assumed Location and attributes of Utility Services or Asset. 

πŸ›‘ Quality Level D = Least Accurate / High Risk

Intended to only indicate presence of asset, from Utility Plans or DBYD 1100 Responses.

βœ”οΈ Quality A (QLA)

Meets location accuracy standards for minimum risk when excavating.

Is the highest Quality Level accuracy and consists of positive identification of the attribute and location of a subsurface utility at a point to an absolute spatial position in three dimensions. It is the only quality level that defines a subsurface utility as β€˜Valid. Required for any Construction Work. 

πŸ“‰ Quality B (QLB)

Significant risk reduction. 

Provides relative subsurface feature locations in three dimensions. The minimum requirement for QL-B is relative spatial position, this can be achieved via an electromagnetic frequency locating device. An electronic location provided by a DBYD Certified Locator to QL-B standard would have a maximum horizontal tolerance of plus or minus 300mm and a maximum vertical tolerance of plus or minus 500mm.

⚠️ Quality C (QLC)

Low accuracy and a high risk of damage.

Is described as a surface feature correlation or an interpretation of the approximate location and attributes of a subsurface utility asset using a combination of existing records and site survey of visible evidence – for example you can see the pit lids shown on the plan but the actual position of underground connection between pits is still assumed.

πŸ›‘ Quality Level D (QLD)

Least accurate level and if used on its own, has a high risk of damage.

QL-D information is generally obtained from existing records provided by utilities as a result of a Dial Before You Dig enquiry being lodged. In many cases the asset depicted on the plan is in a schematic format only and intended only to indicate its presence.

Where can I download AS5488?

(Australian Standard 5488)

AS5488 is the Australian standard for Subsurface Utility Information (SUI), Provided and Used by Construction, Surveyors, SUE Engineers and other Utility Locating services. 

Grab a Copy of the official document here.

Hardcopy Cost: $104.50 AUD, OR $94.15 AUD for a PDF version. 

Below is a free summarization version to learn more about how it can help you next time you are planning a excavation, Dial Before You Dig enquiry or utility locating activity.


Australian Underground Utilities Standard of Subsurface Utility Information

Who should know about As5488?

What is AS5488? (Australian Standard 5488), Utility Quality Level A, Utility Quality Level B, Utility Quality Level C, Utility Quality Level D, QLA, QLB, QLC, QLD SUI Examples, AS5488 Meaning, DBYD QLA Meaning, QLB meaning, QLD Meaning, legend utility markings symbols, Utility spray paint markings.


Purchase a Copy of the SAI Published AS5488-2013 Report - Click Here

Dial Before You Dig Australia

Download AS5488 Pdf. 

Classification of subsurface utility information Subsurface utility information from Utility Locating Information.

AS5488 PDF Guide to Spray Paint and Ground Markings.

On the one page guide, Get As5488 Indications of quality levels, Colors, Commonly used Letter Symbols with all Corresponding Utilities.