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How to prevent a major safety incident on your project

Prevent OHS Incidents on Your Site

It’s every developer’s worst nightmare – you’re half way through construction and a major OHS incident happens. All of sudden construction is halted, WorkSafe and the unions are on site and the incident is all over the media…

As a developer you want each and every worker on your site to be safe. While your Principal Contractor is responsible for ensuring the health and safety of workers on the site, you also have obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

To help you meet your obligations, ensure your project goes smoothly and that everyone on site stays safe – we’ve put together this list of tips and suggestions.

Prioritise safety from outset – before you even engage a Principal Contractor

During the tender process you want to make sure you do your due diligence when it comes to safety. As a minimum all tenders should include a:
  • draft or example Construction Management Plan for the project.

  • evidence of an OHS System that includes policies, procedures, consultation arrangements and reporting.

You should also:
  • do your research and make sure the company has a good track record when it comes to safety, as well as sufficient experience to complete the project.

  • ensure they have a documented and implemented Safety Management System that is regularly reviewed.

A good project starts with a good contract

It’s critical that all Design and Construction contracts clearly set out who is responsible for ensuring OHS requirements are complied with and implemented on the site.

Safety in Design shouldn’t be set and forget

The responsibility for safe design rests with any groups or individuals who have control of, or oversee any part of the design function.

A proactive Principal Contractor will organise a series of Safety in Design workshops to ensure that all foreseeable hazards and risks are eliminated or reduced during the design stage. It’s a collective effort that often requires design modifications to be made during the planning stage and should involve the:
  • Architect;

  • Builder;

  • Developer;

  • Project Manager;

  • Subject matter experts such as OHS consultants, engineers, suppliers, surveyors, building services and electrical systems specialists.

Safety in Design is a process that should continue throughout the construction phase, with any issues being taken back to the working group as they arise.

Before anyone lifts a shovel – make sure your builder’s safety system is up to scratch

While the builder will have demonstrated they have an OHS System as part of the tender process, before work commences it’s well worth conducting a Pre-Commencement Audit to verify the system, how they propose to manage safety for the duration of the build and who is responsible. Ideally this should be done pre-mobilisation.

Monitor and observe – but don’t direct the builder or tell them how to do it

You should be proactively monitoring and reviewing safety and management plans on-site. We advise our clients to conduct periodic site inspections, with an independent OHS specialist, to ensure the Principal Contractor is complying with health and safety requirements. The frequency and scope of the inspections should be relevant to the nature, duration and risks associated with the build. Any issues identified should then be addressed with the Principal Contractor.

If you’d like to talk to an OHS specialist about your project we’re here to help – just call us on 03 9863 8408 or email


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