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Contractors and their speciality skills are an essential part of many construction and building businesses. Their presence on site, however, can pose a safety risk to your personal, as well as to the contractors themselves.

To ensure all building work is carried out safely and that hazards to operating personnel or the public are identified and minimised as far as is practicable, this guide highlights some of the requirements associated with general building work practices.

Here are the must-do actions:

Consider Essential Safety and Health Features

In jurisdictions where it is required, buildings should incorporate the appropriate Prescribed Essential Health and Safety Features.

This normally includes at least:

  • building fire integrity;
  • means of egress;
  • signs;
  • lighting;
  • fire fighting services and equipment;
  • air-handling systems;
  • automatic fire detection and alarm systems;
  • occupant warning systems;
  • lifts;
  • standby power supply systems; and
  • any other measure prescribed by the Building Code of Australia (available from the Australian Building Codes Board’s website).

Control activities with work permits

Controlling activities with work permits ensures that a systematic review of potential hazards takes place prior to contractors being authorised to start works. A Work Permit should be issued prior to the commencement of any work on existing buildings, particularly work that involves breaking into existing walls. In addition, specific work permits should be issued for particular tasks and activities, e.g. confined spaces, hot work, excavation, and working at heights.

Additional Building Works Precautions

Before a Work Permit is issued, all reasonably foreseeable hazards and the required control measures should be considered. In addition to a normal hazard review this should include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Checking the relevant up-to-date documentation and drawings identifying the location of hidden services, isolating them or protecting them if isolation is not practical.
  • Taking into account structural considerations of the building or structure.

Hidden Services Electronic Detection

Where drawings of hidden services (electricity, gas, water, etc.) are not available, electronic detection should be used. There are many differing types of detection technology available all with their unique limitations; as such, professional advice should be obtained prior to the authorisation of any penetration or excavation into unknown areas.

Hand tools

Hand tools used should be suitable for the task and in good working order. Handles should also be checked to ensure they are firmly in place. Electrical tools and leads should be tested and tagged in appropriate timeframe and inspected prior to use.

Personal Protective Equipment

The appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used for all building work. This also applies to personnel who are required to carry out work involving drilling or breaking into plaster walls. In such instances, the risk of silica dust should be considered and appropriate control measures (e.g. ventilation, protective masks) should be utilised.

Work Involving Asbestos

If any asbestos is encountered during work on existing buildings, work should cease immediately and appropriate professional advice sought.

General advice warning

The information on this site is of a general nature only. It does not take your specific needs or circumstances into consideration. You should look at your own situation and requirements before making any decisions.