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Date PostedJuly 23, 2012

White Card Update: Site Safety Management – Whose Responsibility is it?

With the large number of safety incidents that occur on construction sites in Oz each year, the question often arises whose fault was it?

Whose responsibility is it to maintain a safe construction site?

Well according to the law, EMPLOYERS have a duty to provide and maintain a safe working environment which is without risks to the workers and their health as much as possible.

Workplace Health and Safety legislation also outlines duties that employers must comply with as part of their general duty. Part of the duties of employers includes:

1. Provision and maintenance of plant and equipment and providing systems of work that do not place the workers at unreasonable and avoidable risk. This safe system of work should not present a health risk to workers on site.

2. Another duty is to make arrangements for the safe use, handling and storage or transport of plant or substances including hazardous materials.

3. Employers also have a responsibility to keep the workplace in a safe condition and provide the necessary facilities for workers welfare, such as ablution and first aid facilities.

4. A duty that employers often seem to ignore, is providing workers with information, instruction, training or supervision that is necessary for them to work safely and without risks to their health. This is an extremely important requirement and employers must ensure their workers receive site specific as well general construction induction training. It is also important to provide adequate supervision as construction activities can be very dangerous and employers will be held liable if incidents occur due to lack of supervision or training.

5. Employers must also monitor the conditions at workplaces under their management and control.

6. Consulting workers on matters of safety is not only useful but smart. As far as is reasonably practicable employers must consult with their workers who are directly affected by certain health and safety matters.

Employers who try to escape their duties by drawing up contracts that relinquish their responsibilities will still be held liable for safety breaches on the sites. An employer’s legal duties cannot be removed or limited through contractual arrangements with other employers, workers or contractors.

For example, if a principal contractor (PC) has a supervisor on-site other employers (contractors) must still supervise their workers to ensure their work is being done safely.

Site safety planning should be managed and coordinated by the PC and should involve all employers. Each employer should plan how to safely do the work activities over which they have control.

In order to maintain a safe site, an overall management system needs to be implemented to manage and control risks that may arise from the particular work being done.

A safety system should include processes for: managing the health and safety of contractors and sub-contractors, identifying people with OHS responsibilities,  developing and managing consultation procedures for health and safety issues, identifying hazards and control risks, developing rules for site safety, monitoring site activities and enforcement of safety rules, establishing site amenities and implement regular maintenance, developing site specific induction for workers,  controlling access onto the site by ensuring only trained and competent workers are allowed to work on-site. This safe system also entails ensuring all plant, machinery and equipment are safe for operation and are safely used including developing traffic management plans and cordoning off zones for specific machinery and making sure these areas are barricaded with appropriate signage erected.

Another important responsibility in site management is developing emergency response plans for emergency situations. Each employer on-site needs to effectively manage the safety of their workers, mobile plant and equipment. It is not just the responsibility of the sites owner or host employer.

Responsibilities including making sure safe work method statements (SWMS) are developed for all high risk construction work, workers are competent or are directly supervised by competent workers and the health and conditions of workers are monitored.

Powered plant needs to be mechanically sound to be used on site and documentation confirming this needs to be available.

A labour provider also has a part to play, in ensuring that workers have completed mandatory construction industry induction training, have completed the provider’s own safety induction, are qualified to undertake the tasks required and are physically able to undertake the required tasks.

The host employer must provide suitable amentities on site and make sure all workers are trained on the sites safety procedures They should also provide the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and protective clothing for the tasks to be done free of charge to workers.

 Posted by Steven Asnicar


Steven Asnicar is regarded as a leader across many fields of industry. In particular, his specialisation across the health, infrastructure, construction, resource and utility sectors has seen him successfully change the dynamics of these industries through the introduction of new strategic, marketing, training and technical frameworks. Steven works closely with industry peak bodies such as Safework Australia, Australian Logistics Council, National Advisory for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment (NATESE) and the Council of Australian Governments in the development of new delivery standards and industry specific programs.

Posted in General Construction Tagged with: , ,

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