Property Developers - do you know your Workplace Health and Safety obligations?

Due to a number of fatal and serious accidents on Canberra construction sites and the ACT Government cracking down on work health and safety, property developers should be considering and reviewing their occupational health and safety obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (ACT). Since coming into effect on 1 January 2012, the workplace health and safety Act has placed stringent requirements on all employees including developers to ensure the health safety and welfare of the people at their place of work.

While delegation of certain work health and safety responsibilities is possible, ultimate responsibility remains with the developer to ensure all legislative responsibilities are correctly delegated. In certain cases a developer may be unable to pass on certain obligations under the workplace health and safety Act because the contractor they attempt to delegate too has inappropriate or insufficient experience to implement correct procedures or compliance systems.

Given issues of liability, developers need to ensure that construction contracts used clearly set out who is responsible for implementing and complying with work health and safety on site. Furthermore, developers should be taking proactive steps to review safety and management plans on-site. This should include periodic site inspections to ensure a contractor is complying with directions regarding work health and safety.

If a developer fails to properly delegate responsibility under the act they may be deemed to be the principal contractor responsible for all aspects of work health safety and be subject to extensive and burdensome administrative and practical obligations. In addition as demonstrated recently, failure to comply with the workplace health and safety Act can lead to infringement notices being issued, construction sites being shut down or criminal or civil proceedings being brought against developers, which delay works and increase costs.

The ACT Work Safety Commissioner has stated that there will be a campaign to examine “…safety management systems implemented by medium to large commercial construction companies in the ACT.” “This is to ensure companies are taking all the necessary steps to adhere to the Territory’s work safety laws,” Mr McCabe said.

In this climate it is crucial that developers ensure that they meet all legislative requirements and correctly delegate responsibility for work health and safety during construction to minimise cost and risk, whilst also ensuring workers interests and health is protected.

If you have any questions regarding the above, or wish to have your current policies or contractual obligations reviewed please do not hesitate to contact Bradley Allen Love Lawyers.