The Complete Guide to Australian Standard 5488.

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In this blog, you will learn exactly what AS5488 is all about.


What is Australian Standard AS5488?

AS5488 is an Australian Standard for the classification and management of subsurface utility information.

No Affiliation with SAI Global or Standards Australia.

It is a efficient and reliable system standard, designed for collecting and depicting subsurface utility information (SUI). AS5488 is an Australian standard developed by Standards Australia titled “Classification of Subsurface Utility Information”.

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

Used in design, construction, drilling, digging and excavation by engineers, project managers, utility locators, surveyors and anyone working near utilities.

AS5488 was first published in 2013 and has since been revised in 2019, and again in 2022. The latest version is called “AS5488 2022”.


Who designed and established AS5488?

It was created by subsurface utility engineers, and is widely used in the construction and engineering industries in Australia.

This Standard, developed by the Standards Australia Committee IT-036, Subsurface Utility Engineering Information, aims to establish a consistent framework for categorizing information about subsurface utilities, particularly Subsurface Utility Information (SUI).

This Standard covers topics like how to acquire subsurface utility information and how to communicate this information to users.


Who should study and know about AS5488?

Anyone who intends to work around underground infrastructure assets should know about AS5488 before commencing. Included but not limited too, Builders, contractors, farmers, excavation companies, councils, landscapers, underground network maintenance workers, plumbers, homeowners, cable and pipe location companies. Some more are listed below.

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 planning, 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.


Why is AS-5488 so important to use when working near utilities?

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.

A notable recommendation of this Standard is the use of Quality Level A for pinpointing the exact location of subsurface utilities in three dimensions. This is considered an improvement over the currently prevalent method of relative positioning.

Absolute positioning is especially advantageous in regions prone to natural disasters or terrorist attacks, as it facilitates the rapid and precise identification of subsurface utility assets and infrastructure following such events.

AS5488 must be understood for any construction project, excavation/digging activities or workings near subsurface utilities.

Its a framework for the systematic and consistent management of information related to underground utilities, such as potable water and gas pipelines, electrical cables, sewers, drains, fire services, recycled water petroleum pipelines and telecommunications lines.


What do AS5488 Colors mean?

What are the AS548 colors code? Standard Utility Colors and Symbols.

E – Electricity/Power – Orange

G – Gas – Yellow

F – Fire Services – Red

W – Water – Blue

C – Communications – White

P – Petroleum – Brown

S – Sewer/Waste Water – Cream

R – Recycled Water – Purple

SW/D – Storm-Water and Drainage – Green

Here is a table with all utility codes, Color Codes and Symbols used for AS5488.

UtilityColorSymbol
CommunicationsWhite (or black when on white background)C
PetroleumBrownP
ElectricityOrangeE
Fire ServiceRedF
GasYellowG
WaterBlueW
SewerCreamS
Recycled WaterPurpleR
DrainageGreenD
Storm WaterGreenSW

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


What are the Quality Levels?

In “AS5488 – 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 of that mark.

What are the AS588 Quality Levels Symbols? 

The symbol QLA, QLB, QLC and QLD are used on site markings and throughout the SUI gathering, documenting and reporting process.

These markings provide detailed information about accuracy, method of verification and confidence in each marking by whomever identified and located each utility service.

Below is the Quality Level Symbol Markings and there respective attached Quality Rating and Risk Ratings.

 Quality Level A = Highest Quality / Lowest Risk

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

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. 

 Quality Level D = Least Accurate / High Risk

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


What is (QLA) Quality Level A?

Quality Level A (QLA) is the highest level of accuracy for subsurface utility locating, involving the positive identification of the attribute and precise three-dimensional spatial positioning.

It is essential for construction work, as it confirms and verifies the validity of subsurface utilities, meeting location accuracy standards for minimal excavation delays, damages, injuries and risk.

Potholed or Physical Verification, QLA can be used for utility locating markings onsite in spray paint or other physical markers, or digital mapping with GPS/GIS or Surveying and CAD mapping.

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 ‘Valid/Confirmed/Verified. 

Required for any Construction Work. 


-What is (QLB) Quality Level B?

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.


What is QLC Quality Level C?

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.


What is QLD Quality Level D?

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.


How to get a Free one page Guide to AS5488?

This PDF Guide to AS5488 can be downloaded completely for free.

However this is for informational and educational purposes only.

Always consult a professional utility locator before digging or excavation for any reason.


Where to Buy the AS5488 Official Document?

Australian Standard Classification of Subsurface Utility Information 2019.

Hardcopy Cost: $104.50 AUD

PDF Version Cost: $94.15 AUD


Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the difference between AS5488 2013 and AS5488 2022? “AS5488 2022” is the updated revision version of “AS5488 2013”. AS5488 2022 supersedes AS5488 2013.

What are the quality levels of subsurface services recording? The Quality Levels are Quality Level A, B, C and D. (A/B/C/D), Sometimes known as QLA, QLB, QLC, QLD symbols or markings.

What is the highest quality level possible during subsurface utility engineering? The highest quality level is “A”, also known as QLA. This quality level offers the best statistical reduction in injuries and damages when working near underground utilities.

Does Quality Level A data guarantee no risk when digging? Unfortunately it does not, there is always a risk when digging. However having QLA data can help reduce damages and injuries significantly and helps provide insurances when excavating.

Are All indications from Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) marks are considered (QLD) Quality Level D? Yes, However an experienced operator can get important information from GPR scans and in some situations be necessary for awareness of unknown utilities, not found with other methods of utility locating.


Keywords: 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.


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