Safe Work Australia has released a revised draft model Code of Practice for Construction Work(draft Code) for public comment.  Public comment will close on Wednesday, 2 October 2013 at 5.00pm AEST.  The content of Codes of Practice is significant because compliance with the Code can operate as a defence under the Work Health and Safety Act and Regulations (WHS Laws), so you want to be sure that you are satisfied with the contents.

What is new in the draft Code?

The draft Code is a revised version of the Construction Work Code of Practice published by Safe Work Australia in July 2012. 

Key differences in the draft Code include:

  • additional guidance for the housing construction sector, by including more practical examples relevant to housing construction work and what constitutes ‘high risk construction work’.  This is significant because Codes of Practice applying to the construction industry have historically focused on commercial and civil construction;
  • new and clarified terms in the draft Code, such as ‘housing construction work’, ‘builder’, ‘owner-builder’.  This is significant because it can affect scope of obligations and liabilities under WHS Laws.  For example, the definition of ‘construction work’ no longer includes planning and design activities that might have been carried out prior to commencing construction work.  Therefore people involved in planning and design activities may be exempt from obligations and liabilities in relation to construction work;
  • a revised safe work method statement template for high risk construction work, simplified to clarify its use specifically for high risk construction work;
  • the inclusion of a work health and safety management plan template; and
  • additional guidance on the duties of designers in relation to work health and safety matters during the construction process.

Should you make a submission to Safe Work Australia about the draft Code?

As a person or business carrying out any type of construction work, you need to consider whether the draft Code provides sufficient practical guidance for you to comply with your obligations under WHS Laws, and recognise and deal with construction hazards and risks as they arise. 

Consider whether:

  • the additional examples in the draft Code provide sufficient guidance to help the housing construction industry understand and comply with WHS Law?
  • the terms used in the draft Code are clear and appropriate?
  • the templates for a safe work method statement and a work health and safety management plan are practical to implement?
  • there are any changes that would make the revised draft Code more useful for the housing sector, or in general?