Industry Best Practices – The 5Ps for Safe Excavation

DBYD certified locators


The underground service locating industry follows a clear set of guidelines of best practice which, in turn, ensures all legal obligations and duties of care are met when working near or around underground services. However, this information is not widely known within the community, which is why project costs can blow-out exponentially and can put lives at risk.


What are the 5Ps?

The 5Ps are Plan, Prepare, Pothole, Protect, and Proceed.

1. Plan

  • This is the point where an understanding of what underground infrastructure is present in the vicinity of the work site. Dial Before You Dig (DBYD) is the central repository for most plans of underground infrastructure. Their service offers a single point of contact to request information about the infrastructure networks at the planned project site, eliminating the need to contact the individual owners of the underground assets. However not all utility owners sign up to this service, including some local council areas. It is advised by DBYD that assumptions should not be made that the plans represent the entirety of the infrastructure assets in the vicinity of the worksite. Engaging a DBYD certified service locator at the planning stage is highly recommended and will save you time and, therefore, money. A DBYD-certified service locator will source plans through DBYD for you and identify agencies that may need to be contacted separately and can, therefore, seamlessly work through the next stages.

2. Prepare

Prepare for your work by reviewing the plans and contacting the utility asset owner if you need assistance. A DBYD-certified service locator can interpret the plans, then identify and locate the underground assets listed on the plans and also identify and locate any unrecorded or unknown assets that may exist in the vicinity of the worksite using above ground service locating techniques. From there, the DBYD-certified locator can provide the results through onsite markings and maps which are in accordance with Australian Standard AS5488-2013.

The additional value of engaging with a DBYD-certified locator starts to become even more apparent at this stage as there may be requirements made by certain asset owners that will need to be undertaken, as well as the requirement to comply with Safe Work Australia Codes of Practice and applicable WHS legislation.

3. Pothole

The best practice is to undertake potholing prior to excavation, in order to validate the position of existing services. Working with a DBYD-certified service locator when potholing will minimise the amount of exploratory potholing needed, reducing costs, as well as validating the assets, once exposed.

Engaging a DBYD-certified service locator who has in-house vacuum excavation capabilities is critical during this step, for quality and efficiency. See our latest post Five tips to engage the right Hydro Vacuum Excavation contractor for your next project.

Instead of engaging a vacuum excavation service and a separate DBYD certified locator, make sure you engage a vacuum excavation service whose operator is DBYD certified. This approach will significantly reduce costs and increase the efficiency and quality of the services provided.

4. Protect

Once all underground services/assets have been located and validated, the DBYD-certified locator is to ensure that the assets are clearly marked or flagged. If necessary, the locator will have protective barriers and supports erected in accordance with the asset owner’s requirements and identified information, which are communicated to everyone onsite.
The DBYD-certified locator should also be able to identify any asset owner or industry regulated No-Go Zones or Exclusion Zones that need to be adhered to and enforced on the worksite. From there, the DBYD-certified service locator will record information/measurements of any subsurface utilities in accordance with AS5488 - 2013 and have the correct quality levels specified to prevent possible damage.

5. Proceed

    • You should only proceed with your excavation or construction work after you have planned, potholed, and installed protective measures in place. If you have engaged a DBYD-certified locator to undertake steps in-house, then you will be able to proceed with your project with confidence.
    • At Utility ID, we undertake all 4 essential steps so you can proceed with your project with certainty and trust. Our DBYD-certified vacuum excavation truck operators have extensive experience in both the service locating industry and the construction industry, ensuring unparalleled service locating solutions for our clients. Contact our highly-skilled team of professionals today for a quote.
    • For more information on the 5P’s head to to download the Best Practice Guide - Preventing Damage to Underground Services.
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