Chapter 16 WHS Principal Contractor Obligations

What is a principal contractor?

A principal contractor is an entity with legislative responsibility for the management of health and safety for construction work. The procedures for appointment or engagement, and the obligations of principal contractors, differ between the commonwealth, states and territories. The requirement to appoint or engage a principal contractor can have a major impact on property owners, tenants, developers and contractors.

Principal contractors are governed by different legislation:

Harmonised jurisdictions
Non-harmonised jurisdictions

On 1 January 2012, harmonised work health and safety laws came into effect in the following jurisdictions:

  • Commonwealth
  • New South Wales
  • Queensland
  • Australian Capital Territory
  • Northern Territory

On 1 January 2013, harmonised legislation also came into effect in South Australia and Tasmania.

In Western Australia the Work Health and Safety Bill 2019 passed through both houses of parliament on 3 November 2020. The Act will commence on a date to be proclaimed, and when Regulations are finalised.

The Victorian Government has announced that it has no intention to harmonise its OHS laws.