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August 23, 2023

Detectable Warning Tape: How Does It Differ From Other Tapes?


Arpit Kushawaha


Warning Tape


A detectable warning tape, also known as underground warning tape, usually indicates the utilities that are buried and to be taken care of during digging or any construction work.

These conductive tapes are usually stuck on utilities that are typically made from non-conductive materials, such as cement, plastic, and fiberglass. It acts as a physical warning to the workers, preventing missing out on non-conductive materials during construction and digging.

The most significant reason to use these tapes is that they work well when applied to conductive items. When any such item is unearthed during digging, these warning tapes prevent any damage to the underground objects during further excavation.

The make

Usually, aluminum is used as a conductive material while making these detectable warning tapes. However, trials are on to replace this material.

Several studies are now being conducted to find a suitable material to replace aluminum with a substance that is more conductive and magnetic. This will make these tapes even more helpful since they will be detectable to a much more diverse and wider assortment of utility location procedures.

These detectable warning tapes typically come in a more comprehensive and diverse range. Though all may look the same to an untrained or ordinary eye, all these tapes are pretty different and separate different properties.

Another significant aspect in the making of these detectable warming tapes, apart from the bright colors, is the metal foil backing.

This is an integral component of these tapes that ensures these are ‘seen’ or ‘picked up’ by all kinds of specialized metal detectors while scanning the ground, even if the tape stays underground. This prevents any damage caused to the property during excavation or construction and also ensures the safety of the maintenance workers.

And finally, in addition to the metal foil backing, these detectable warning tapes are also coated with a layer of chemical-resistant and scratch-proof material. This allows using these tapes in almost all settings.

Also, the inscriptions on these tapes are usually encased. This prevents deterioration of the ink as well as complete reflectivity of the warning sign.

The purpose

The color coding of the detectable warning tapes makes them a unique option to use on underground utilities that need to be protected from damages caused during excavation.

It can be used for different purposes, including:

  • Signposting the cables underground
  • Marking the drain and sewer ducts
  • Highlighting the gas or fuel mains
  • Marking the street lights and other lamps
  • Signposting fiber optic cables and more.

The color

Ideally, these tapes come in standard colors, which are actually codes that talk about the type of object or utility it is enclosing and protecting.

Usually, the different colors and their explanation are as follows:

  • Red – It signifies the electrical warning tape to indicate electric power cables, lines, conduit, and lighting cables
  • Yellow – A black yellow warning tape signifies oil, gas, petroleum, steam, or gaseous materials
  • Orange – It signifies alarm, signal or communication cable, lines or conduit
  • Blue – It signifies potable water
  • Green – It signifies drain and sewers lines
  • Purple – It signifies slurry line, reclaimed water, and irrigation lines
  • Pink – It signifies temporary survey marks and
  • White – It signifies a proposed excavation site.

All these color standards of the warning tapes are commonly used for construction specifications, and it is mandatory to use them.

The difference

These detectable warning tapes are different from the other tapes due to their eye-catching, bright colors. This means that other similar tapes will not be as easily visible in difficult locations or troublesome situations as the detectable warning tapes.

It is mainly the degree of detectability of these tapes that separates them from the other tapes and are therefore used so extensively in the electric, water, and gas industries.

In addition to the color coding, the detectable warning tapes also differ in their specifications in comparison to the other tapes.

In most cases, these specific warning tapes measure 3 to 6 inches in width and conform with the standard set by the authority, especially by the engineering and transport department. All-inclusive of the metal foil backing, the overall thickness of these tapes is usually 5.0 mil.

On the other hand, other tapes, especially the non-detectable warning tapes come with an overall thickness of 4.0 mil usually. These tapes are normally made from inert plastic films.

However, irrespective of the difference, these tapes play a significant role in construction and engineering works. They prevent damages to the underground properties and utilities and also prevent the workers from sustaining any personal injuries while working.


The detectable warning tapes help in identifying the components and points of hazards, thereby facilitating a safer work environment. These standardized tapes ensure better and faster construction work due to reduced downtime since it prevents accidents and errors, asking for rework almost in any environment.



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