Construction sites are a dangerous place to work. There are always hazards that arise and continually change throughout the construction process. The fact is that safety management is the responsibility of everyone on the site, however, there are many sites that don’t have an adequate Work Health & Safety (WHS) plan in place when something does go wrong.

In Australia, the Work Health & Safety (Construction Work) Code of Practice 2015 is the best place to look and understand what safety management plans and processes you must have in place for large construction projects. You can download a copy of the legislation here.

If a serious injury does occur on your site, your paperwork will be the first item that a governing body such as WorkCover will ask for. This article is a summary of the code and outlines the key points that everyone should be aware of when managing or working on a construction site.

1. What is a WHS management plan?

A WHS management plan is a written set of guides for managing site health and safety matters. The plan should outline the risks associated with the project and the various procedures that are in place to ensure that the site is kept as safe as possible (e.g. Safety inspections, contractor SWMS approval, evacuation procedures, project risk matrix).

The WHS plan must be in writing and prepared by the main contractor before the project is commenced. It is important that the safety plan is understood by every worker on the site and be made available at all times.

2. When do you need a WHS management plan?

Regulation 309 states that all projects with a construction value of $250,000 or more must have a written WHS management plan prepared by the principal contractor before work commences.

3. What must be included in a WHS management plan?

The WHS Management Plan must contain:

  • names of persons at the workplace whose positions or roles involve specific health and safety responsibilities, for example, site supervisors, project managers, first aid officers
  • arrangements for consultation, cooperation and coordination
  • arrangements for managing incidents
  • site-specific health and safety rules and how people will be informed of the rules
  • arrangements to collect and assess, monitor and review SWMS.

It may also include information on:

  • the provision and maintenance of a hazardous chemicals register, safety data sheets and hazardous chemicals storage
  • the safe use and storage of plant
  • the development of a construction project traffic management plan
  • obtaining and providing essential services information
  • workplace security and public safety
  • ensuring workers have appropriate licences and training to undertake the construction work.

4. Informing people about the WHS management plan

According to Regulation 310, “The principal contractor must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that all persons who are to carry out construction work on the construction project are made aware of the content of the WHS plan in respect to their work and their right to inspect the plan.”

5. Reviewing and revising a WHS management plan

A project’s WHS plan must stay relevant to the site and the stage that the construction is up to. Regulation 311 outlines that “The principal contractor must review and, as necessary, revise the WHS management plan to ensure it remains up-to-date and relevant for the construction project.”

6. Keeping the WHS management plan

The WHS management plan (including any revisions to it) must be kept and made available to any person engaged to carry out the construction work, and for inspection until the construction project is completed and for at least 2 years after a notifiable incident occurs.