Q: I am a director of a small house building company that uses multiple subcontractors, what are my safety responsibilities?
A: Builders must provide the degree of supervision necessary for work on their sites to be carried out safely and without risks to health. The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 requires builders, and other employers, to provide information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect their workers from health and safety risks arising from their work.
In order to comply with work health and safety law, the supervision provided by the builder must be effective, meaning that it should be clearly delegated, competent and timely.
The builder’s own workers need supervision. So do the builder’s contractors and their workers. Even though the contractor will also have responsibility for their workers, these are also the builder’s workers. Visitors to a site also need supervision
Site supervision means the general direction, coordination and oversight of the on-site work processes. In particular, supervision on housing construction sites involves:
The builder’s contractors also have a duty to provide the necessary degree of supervision to their workers to enable them to perform their work in a manner that is safe and without risks to health.
For supervision to be effective, the supervisor should have the clearly delegated authority of the builder to:
Supervision is competent when the supervisor has a general:
Safety supervisor training courses are available at MBA ACT.
Supervision is timely when:
Whilst the supervisor’s physical presence on site is the optimum way of ensuring timely supervision, full-time on-site supervision may not always be necessary.
Between site visits, supervisors can continue to exercise timely supervision by phone, email, and/or two-way radio communication.
If the usual supervisor knows they will be uncontactable for a short period, arrangements should be made with key site personnel to effectively delegate urgent decision-making responsibility and supervisory responsibilities pending the supervisor’s return to availability.
To avoid doubt, it is recommended that supervisors keep brief but clear records, such as:
A person conducting a business or undertaking needs to ensure that members of the public are not exposed to risk arising from the construction site. Unauthorised entry to construction sites may expose a person to a number of hazards that, if not controlled, could result in the likelihood of fatalities or serious injuries.
The purpose of the sign is to provide information about what building work is happening, or proposed for the site, and the licensed people who will be doing the work.
The sign provides information about who is working on the site and how to contact them if need be.
The sign is separate to any development application process if required. If a development application was required, then a separate development application sign would have been placed on the block. The development application process is an opportunity for the community to comment on the proposed development.
A sign is required even if a development application was not required due to it being an exempt development.
The signs will provide quick and easy identification of the building work site to emergency services personnel.
The signs will also allow the community to report suspected theft or equipment damage happening on site to the builder or certifier.
For particular types of development, the sign must be erected for seven consecutive days in a two month period before applying for a commencement notice. The types of development that require the sign to be erected before applying for a commencement notice are large garages, single dwellings, including alterations, and demolition of single dwellings.
The sign must:
If there are multiple licensed builders for the building work, and the building work is not exempt from needing a building approval, then the details of each builder are required to be on the sign.
Examples of when a sign is required include:
Templates for the sign are available on the WorkSafe ACT Website
Builders must provide, or have access to, adequate amenities for construction sites to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their workers and others using their sites.
In order to comply with work health and safety laws, the amenities provided by the builder must be adequate, accessible and timely.
Amenities are those facilities provided for a construction site to provide for the health, safety and welfare of persons working on that site and include:
The provision of amenities that are reasonably practicable should take into account the:
The builder should plan for:
Enclosed amenities should be of sound construction and weatherproof, with adequate ventilation and lighting.
The builder, contractors and workers should consult with each other to determine the type and extent of any additional amenities to be provided on a particular site.
The builder should provide hygienic and weatherproof meal and shelter facilities in an area accessible to the building under construction at the earliest opportunity such as in the garage or similar covered area.
These facilities should include:
At the initial stages of construction, but only until an adequate area can be made available, shelter may be provided in the form of contractors’ vehicles.
Workers must have access to conveniently located toilet facilities. Where the toilet is not connected to the sewerage system, self-contained fresh water flushing portable toilets should be provided that are regularly serviced in accordance with the supplier’s information and instructions, but not less than monthly.
To provide an acceptable standard of hygiene and privacy, the toilet must be:
Toilets may be shared between sites if:
Where female workers are present on site, appropriate measures for sanitary item disposal should be made, such as a disposal unit provided in the portable toilet or sewer connected toilet closet.
Hand washing facilities within or adjacent to each toilet or urinal should be provided. Clean water and soap should be provided for the purposes of washing.
A readily accessible and plentiful supply of drinking water must be available to all workers on the site.
The site water tapping, complete with hose bib-tap, should be installed at the earliest opportunity.
Where a mains water supply connection is not possible, drinking water may be provided using flasks, labelled water containers, water bags or similar. However, mains water supply should be provided at the earliest possible time.
Drinking water facilities must be separated from toilet facilities to ensure adequate hygiene.
Every week, construction workers are injured seriously enough to stop work because basic site safety and housekeeping is not up to scratch. These injuries might not be life threatening, but they are painful, costly, and the effects can be permanent, making it difficult to work in the future. They’ll hurt their back or neck, tear a ligament, cut themselves or break a bone.
Poor supervision, and particularly poor housekeeping, is often to blame. Workers might cut open a leg on an off cut, trip over building rubble or strain a knee stepping backwards off a plank. Construction sites present serious difficulties. Only the most rigorous supervision and the cooperation of all workers can keep the site free from tools, bolts, planks, (including upturned nails) and other objects likely to cause serious accidents.
Good housekeeping doesn’t just happen. Everyone on site needs to do their bit. It’s time to get back to basics.
Ensure housekeeping is included in all work activities, from planning through to start up and completion.
Contracts – State in the contract that each trade is responsible for cleaning up after themselves and that penalties might apply if they don’t.
Site rules – Before work starts, develop site rules that include housekeeping responsibilities, and make sure everyone on site knows them.
Safety plans – Ensure the site layout supports good housekeeping such as designated delivery and storage areas, waste management, walkways and vehicle parking.
Once the site is established, proper supervision is critical to ensure everybody follows the site rules.
Principal contractors play an important role in ensuring the orderly conduct of construction work. The principal contractor needs to implement and maintain safe housekeeping practices, including:
Appropriate signs may include signs about:
Relevant people must:
Anyone should be able to safely access or work on site. Regularly inspect your site to ensure contractors are following the rules, including keeping the workplace tidy and correctly storing materials.
For further information, visit WorkSafe ACT website, or download the ACT Codes of Practice –œ Ã¢â‚¬ËœManaging the Work Environment and Facilities’ and Ã¢â‚¬ËœHow to manage Work Health and Safety Risks’. All ACT and national Codes of practice can be found here
If you have any WHS related enquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact us on (02) 6175 5900.