Chapter 16 Responsibilities of principal contractors

The principal contactor is responsible for:

  • management and control of the workplace (including the coordination of the works on site);
  • management of risks associated with the carrying out of the construction work;
  • ensuring that the workplace is secured from unauthorised access;
  • preparing and maintaining a work health and safety management plan (or a ‘health and safety coordination plan’ in Victoria) for the workplace, informing workers about the plan and reviewing and revising it as necessary;
  • if there is ‘high risk’ construction work, obtaining a copy of (or, if the principal contractor is the PCBU, preparing or procuring) a safe work method statements (SWMS) for all such work. High risk work includes,  work that involves a risk of a person falling more than 2 metres, demolition, removal or disturbance of asbestos, working in confined spaces, and any movement of powered mobile plant (among others).  The SWMS must be complied with and be reviewed as necessary;
  • installing signage on the workplace identifying the principal contractor; and
  • ensuring that that each person who is to carry out construction work in connection with the project is, before commencing work, made aware of:
    • the content of the work health and safety management plan for the workplace, and
    • the person’s right to inspect the work health and safety management plan.

These obligations arise virtue of the party’s position as the principal contractor in the harmonised jurisdictions. In Victoria it is by virtue of its position as both the principal contractor and the person with management and control of a workplace to ensure a workplace is safe and without risks to health.

The harmonised jurisdictions provide additional prescriptive requirements in relation to work health and safety, requiring that the principal contractor ensures that the workplace has suitable arrangements with respect to:

  • appropriate facilities and that the facilities are maintained and accessible;
  • appropriate first aid equipment;
  • an emergency plan;
  • provision of personal protective equipment;
  • managing the risk from airborne contaminants;
  • managing the risk from the use and storage of flammable to combustible substances;
  • managing the risk from falling objects and falls;
  • the storage, movement and disposal of materials;
  • the storage of plant not in use; and
  • traffic management.

The principal contractor will also have obligations (which it may hold concurrently with other duty holders in respect of the same workplace) in relation to:

  • consulting with designers of structures;
    managing risks specific to demolition work (including obtaining current underground
  • essential services information before directing or allowing excavation work to commence and securing trenches);
  • ensuring that general construction induction training (‘green card’) is provided to all workers involved in construction work.

The content of each duty holders’ obligations may differ, depending on the duty holder’s position in respect of the work being performed  A party cannot contract out of those duties – they are non-delegable (though a contract may clarify roles and expectations of the various duty holders).

Penalties apply for failure to comply with the relevant responsibilities.