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Stay safe on the job with our guide to health and safety in the construction industry. Learn about best practices, regulations, and tools to keep yourself and your team protected.

How to Stay Safe on the Job: A Guide to Construction Industry Health and Safety

Did you know that according to Safework Australia, construction is one of the top industries with the highest fatalities and serious claims? It is why the same government statutory agency establishes a national policy to improve work health and safety (WHS). It also works on improving the workers’ compensation arrangements throughout the country. The WHS laws contain the code of practice for managing health and safety risks and construction work. Both discuss the workers’ requirement to undergo training to gain the knowledge and skills to stay safe on the job. A summary of both codes of practice and information on the training is found below.

Who is Safework Australia?

Safework Australia is a national policy body that works with the following:

  • The Commonwealth
  • States
  • Territories

This agency aims to achieve healthier, safer, and more productive workplaces with the help of the Work Health and Safety laws.

What are the Work Health and Safety Laws?

In 2011, Safe Work Australia developed the model work health and safety (WHS) laws. The Commonwealth, states, and territories implement them as their own for the following laws to be legally binding:

  • the model WHS Act 
  • the model WHS Regulations 
  • model Codes of Practice

Each model has its contents. For instance, the model Code of Practice contains information on managing health and safety risks and construction work.

What is the Code of Practice for Managing Work Health and Safety Risks?

To manage work health and safety risks, the code of practice discusses the following:

  • Identifying hazards
  • Assessing risks
  • Controlling risks
  • Reviewing controls
  • Keeping records

It mentions many actions to ensure that control remains effective. One is up-to-date training and competency for all workers, supervisors, and new employees to ensure they can work safely. The Code of Practice for Construction Work discusses the specific training for this industry. 

What is the Code of Practice for Construction Work?

It contains the methods mentioned in the previous code of practice specifically for the construction industry aside from:

  • Duties related to construction work
  • Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS)
  • WHS Management Plans for Construction Projects
  • Information, Training, Instruction, and Supervision
  • General Workplace Management Arrangements

Its last parts mention templates, examples, and facilities for construction.

Who has the Duty of Maintaining Health and Safety in Construction Sites?

The code states that everyone involved in construction work is required to perform the following significant health and safety duties:

  • Designers – to ensure that the structure’s design imposes no risk to the health and safety of people.
  • A person conducting a business or commissions- to consult with the designer about the structure and acquire information on the hazards and risks at the workplace.
  • Principal contractor – to ensure compliance with the WHS regulations, provide appropriate signage, create the WHS management plan, and manage risks.
  • A person with management or control – to ensure the workplace’s security when excavation work is to be conducted, it is necessary to acquire information on critical services.
  • A person involved in high-risk construction work – to ensure that a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) is prepared, reviewed, and revised when necessary. They must also provide a copy of it to the principal contractor.
  • A person conducting a business – to manage health and safety risks associated with excavation activities and to comply with WHS regulations.
  • Officers (such as Company Directors) – to use appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise risks.
  • Workers – to take reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves and other workers. The WHS Regulations oblige them to keep their general construction induction training card available for inspection.
  • Other persons – visitors and people present in a construction workplace must follow the instructions to help them be healthy and safe on-site

The code provides additional information on how each person involved must ensure work health and safety on construction sites.

What is Considered a High-Risk Construction Work?

The code identifies high-risk construction work as:

  • A possibility of a person falling more than 2 meters.
  • Work on a telecommunication tower.
  • Demolition of a structure that is load-bearing.
  • Involves asbestos.
  • Structural facilities need temporary support to prevent them from collapsing.
  • Performed near or in a confined space, shaft, trench, piping, chemical, fuel, or energised electrical installations
  • Involvement of explosives.

The code specifies how near high-risk construction work can be performed at the locations above.

How is Risk Management for Construction Work?

The code contains the following risk management process specific to the construction industry:

  • Identifying hazards includes unstable structures, falling objects, and hazardous manual tasks.
  • Assessing the risks – likelihood and severity of an injury or illness.
  • Controlling the risks – eliminating or minimising the risk using safer alternatives.
  • Reviewing control measures – check if the controls are adequate, find new hazards, and revise when necessary.

The code states that there is a need to review the SWMS if changes are made to the control measures.

What are Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS)?

SWMS enables anyone involved in construction work to understand the requirements for performing high-risk construction work safely and healthily. It contains step-by-step work activities, hazards, and control measures.

What is the Required Information, Training, Instruction, and Supervision?

The code outlines that a person conducting business must provide relevant information, training, instruction, and supervision regarding the following:

  • A worker’s nature of work.
  • Nature of the risks.
  • Implementation of control measures.

All of which aim to protect the workers from the health and safety risks arising from the job and the site. As such, the regulation requires workers to undergo training to ensure they have the necessary knowledge and skills to complete the work safely.

What is the Required Training for Construction Workers?

The code states that WHS Regulation 316-317 requires workers to complete general construction induction training before they carry out a construction job. Registered Training Organisations such as Accredited Short Courses (RTO NO 21903) deliver this, which covers the following:

  • The duty holder’s roles, responsibilities, and rights.
  • The processes of health and safety consultation and reporting.
  • Risk management principles.
  • Hazards and control measures.
  • Information and documentation on safety.

Accredited Short Courses (RTO NO 21903) delivers general construction induction training (white card) in multiple locations throughout Australia.

What are the General Workplace Management Arrangements?

According to the code, a person conducting business in the construction industry must be responsible for the following:

  • Supplying and maintaining a safe working environment and adequate facilities.
  • Ensuring that first aid is available.
  • Provide the availability of emergency planning.
  • Making the appropriate PPE available to workers.
  • Foreseeing remote or isolated work.
  • Managing risks associated with falling objects, airborne contaminants, hazardous atmospheres, and flammable substances.

The code provides more details on the methods of implementing each arrangement.

Conclusion

There are many methods, and people are required to stay safe on the jobs involved in the construction industry. Every person involved must perform their duties responsibly. Following the processes of risk management help to remove or minimise the dangers at work. Creating and implementing Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) help workers understand the workflow, hazards, and control measures. A person conducting a business must provide relevant information, training, instruction, and supervision relating to the workers’ jobs, risks, and control measures. General construction induction training (white card) is required for every construction worker before they carry out a job. The WHS Regulations also oblige them to keep their white card available for inspection.