Dial Before You Dig Explained

If you plan to build a home, or you’re about to renovate, there are certain limitations on where and how low you can dig. This is because your property could be sitting above important underground infrastructure, like electrical cabling or gas pipelines. In an effort to keep people from damaging these networks and potentially injuring themselves, an organisation was set up to protect Australia’s infrastructure assets to ensure essential services like water, natural gas, electricity and telecommunications are not disrupted.

In this article, we run through what ‘Dial Before You Dig’ is, how they can help you identify safe digging practices, as well as lodging enquiries. As the name suggests, we’ll uncover why it’s best to find out what’s beneath the surface before you start digging.

What is Dial Before You Dig (DBYD)?

Dial Before You Dig logo

Dial Before You Dig (DBYD) is a free referral service that provides information on the whereabouts of underground infrastructure, such as cables, pipes and wires. It is designed to prevent damage and interruptions to energy and telecommunication networks that provide vital services to homes and businesses across Australia.

Originating as ‘Perth One Call’ in Western Australia in 1987, all states and territories have since jumped on board, forming what’s now known as Dial Before You Dig. DBYD has a direct partnership with most Australian underground asset owners like Telstra or Ausgrid. This way homeowners can avoid damaging infrastructure when certain projects are being undertaken, like building a driveway or fence, landscaping or digging a new pool.

How deep can you dig before calling DBYD?

There are various circumstances at play to ensure safe digging practices, including the location, scope of works being carried out and the type of underground infrastructure. Therefore, the depth of digging will vary case by case, as the alignment of cables and pipes cannot be pinpointed to an exact location. This means there is a Duty of Care in place for those undertaking the works, no matter the size of the project.

Is Dial Before You Dig free?

Yes, Dial Before You Dig is a free service that is available for any enquiries related to building, excavating or landscaping work that involves digging. Whether it’s a large commercial project or a small home renovation, a free enquiry should be lodged before commencing any works. For some jobs, the relevant infrastructure owner may charge a fee for providing on-site assistance regarding the location of assets (i.e. cabling and pipes).

Homeowners can also download a free guide called, ‘Locating Underground Services’ via the website.

Is Dial Before You Dig mandatory?

Underground pipes dug up in yard

A Dial Before You Dig enquiry must be lodged prior to starting any excavation or landscaping works. Depending on where you live, enquiries will need to be lodged within a specific timeframe. These are mandatory requirements that are enforced by state and federal legislation.

According to the Department of Communications, there were more than 1.3 million enquiries to Dial Before You Dig in 2014-2015, ranging from commercial businesses, excavation companies, farmers and homeowners. In New South Wales, there is a $22,000 penalty for interference to electricity or gas networks for individuals, while corporations will be whacked with a $440,000 fine.

Contact Dial Before You Dig

There are a few ways for homeowners to contact Dial Before You Dig. Depending on the method, response times may vary.

  • Online at 1100.com.au
  • On the app Via the App Store (Apple users only)
  • By telephone on 1100 (within business hours)

Dial Before You Dig Checklist

Here’s a summary of how to ensure it’s safe to dig:

  1. Contact Dial Before You Dig well before carrying out construction or renovation works
  2. Lodge an enquiry to Dial Before You Dig (either you or the tradesperson)
  3. Once you receive the plan, exercise a Duty of Care when working around network assets
  4. If you require further assistance, contact the owner of the infrastructure directly
  5. Keep a record of all information relating to the works in case of potential damage or disruption
  6. Don’t forget that you’re liable for any damage caused to assets regardless if an enquiry has been lodged to Dial Before You Dig

It’s important to remember to never assume you know where underground infrastructure is. Not only can you be held financially liable for damaging assets, you can also potentially harm yourself and others in doing so. That’s why it’s best to make an enquiry with Dial Before You Dig by obtaining a free plan. Finally, just by lodging an enquiry, you’re still required to follow the Duty of Care, which outlines your obligations when carrying out works in or near Australia’s infrastructure networks and assets.

If in any doubt, visit the website for more information or contact them directly.

Image credits: ungvar/Shutterstock.com, Dial Before You Dig, Oleg Kopyov/Shutterstock.com

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