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Key WHS Requirements for Construction Site Safety

Construction Site SafetyThe construction industry is one of Australia’s largest employers, with $360 billion revenue annually (around 9% of GDP) with over 1 million employees! Due to the size of the industry and the high risk nature of many construction tasks, construction workers face many safety hazards and unfortunately there is around one fatality per week throughout Australia in construction.

Businesses have the primary duty of care for construction safety and providing adequate safety control measures. In this article we discuss some vital WHS requirements for construction work in Australia, including the WHS laws, codes of practice and other workplace safety issues to get your construction site running up and running safely.

1. Health and Safety Management Plans

Health and Safety Management Plans detail how various WHS obligations will be met. They are essentially a document that outlines how your company manages health and safety and how it provides a safe work environment. These plans are a legal requirement for principal contractors and construction projects worth over $250,000, however even for companies who aren’t principal contractors on smaller jobs they can be very valuable.

HSMP for Construction Site Safety

There is some legislative guidance on what to include in the health and safety management plan, this includes:

  • names, positions and health and safety responsibilities of all persons
  • arrangements for consultation, cooperation and coordination
  • managing any work health and safety incidents
  • site-specific health and safety rules
  • collection and any assessment monitoring and review of safe work method statements.

However, safety management plans usually include a lot more information including best practice for how training is managed, management of high risk work like plant operation, working at heights, confined spaces and traffic management as well as methods for monitoring and reviewing the WHS performance of the construction site.

If you need help with your safety management plan or general construction site safety, you can visit our Systems and Procedure Development page for more information.

2. Inductions for Construction Site Safety

Inductions are one of the most crucial WHS requirements for construction sites, with workers ideally undergoing two or three different inductions before being allowed to fully access and work on a construction site. The inductions may vary depending on the company or site however generally the inductions required for working on a construction site will be:

  • General Construction Induction (white card / blue card)
  • General Company Induction
  • Site Specific Induction
  • Task Specific Induction

2.1 General Construction Induction (white card / blue card)

This induction is legally required for anyone who wishes to work on a construction site. The general construction induction is completed via a registered training organization (RTO) either online or via face-to-face training.

Construction Induction

2.2 General Company Induction

A general company induction is usually conducted when employees are first employed and includes topics such as the organization’s history, culture and overall WHS risk management procedures and rules regarding unsafe work practices.

2.3 Site Specific Induction

A site-specific induction must be completed before a worker commences work on site and usually covers site specific hazards and safety information like emergency procedures, hazardous areas and site safety rules.

2.4 Task Specific Induction

Task specific inductions are completed before new workers take part in a hazardous task. This induction is to provide practical guidance on how to complete a task. For example, before operating a piece of high risk plant the worker may be required to read and sign the SWMS before completing a familiarization of the safety risks with the piece of plant prior to commencing work.

3. High Risk Construction Work and SWMS

High Risk Construction Work is any work that meets the definition as per the WHS Regulations, including (but limited to):

  • Work at Heights (with a risk of a person falling over 2m)
  • Enter and Work in Confined Spaces
  • Work On or Next to a Roadway
  • Work with Mobile Plant

Legally, these tasks require the employer to have a documented Safe Work Method Statement outlining the task steps, hazards and safety controls to mitigate risks associated with the works. Ideally, workers should be consulted during the development of the SWMS and should sign-off on the document before starting work.

4. What About High-Risk Work on Site?

High Risk Work (NOT high risk construction work) is outlined within Schedule 3 of the harmonised WHS regulations and various tasks that are not construction industry specific. Many of these tasks involve the operation of plant, including:

  • Scaffolding
  • Demolition Work
  • Rigging and Dogging
  • Forklift Operation
  • Vehicle Loading Crane Operation

Crane Operation in Construction

The main legal requirement for High Risk Work is that workers must not complete the high-risk work unless they have the appropriate license (issued by the state regulator) for the task they are completing. There are a few exceptions for this rule, including when someone is enrolled in a training course for the relevant class of high risk work.

5. Specific WHS Requirements for Construction Work

There is a wealth of health and safety requirements for construction work and in this article we have explored a few of the man considerations. In addition to the ones we have discussed, WHS requirements for construction work can include:

  • First Aid and Emergency Response
  • Working at Heights, Fall Prevention and Falling Objects
  • Confined Spaces
  • Safe Use of Plant and Equipment
  • Manual Handling
  • Electrical Work
  • Hazardous Chemicals
  • Crystalline Silica
  • Site Access, Parking and Site Security

If you are a principal contractor and are interested in the WHS requirements for construction work relating to principal contractors, please read our article on Principal Contractors and Their Legal Duties.

Construction Site Safety Meeting

6 How Can Spire Safety Help?

We offer a range of services to help construction companies meet their legal requirements and ensure construction site safety, including:

  • General WHS Consultation
  • Provision of WHS Documentation (including construction site safety documentation)
  • WHS Training

7 Further Information

Further information can be found at the Safe Work Australia Construction Page.

Alternatively, if you need assistance please contact one of our helpful consultants.

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