Owner Builder Work Health and Safety
A frequently asked question that owner builders need answered is in regard to their responsibility for Work Health and Safety issues on their owner builder project.
The answer is simple.
As an owner builder, you are considered to be the Principal Contractor or the Person in Charge of the Workplace. With this 'lofty title', comes considerable responsibility.
You are ultimately responsible for all aspects of Work Health and Safety on the site.
This includes ensuring every person employed on the owner builder project holds a White Card.
The White Card is awarded to persons who have completed mandatory General Safety Induction Training as legislated in each state and territory. This generally requires the completion of CPCCOHS1001A Work safely in the construction industry and the issue of the White Card by the RTO on behalf of the state regulatory body.
The owner builder has a legal obligation to sight and keep records of proof of General Safety Induction Training for each person engaged on work tasks on their site.
Additionally where owner builder controlled works include High Risk Activities, the owner builder must sight, approve, record and maintain available on site, a copy of the associated Safe Work Method Statements. These SWMS are generally prepared by the contractor responsible for completing the high risk activity. The owner builder must accept the proposed method of completing the works as detailed in the SWMS and associated controls and monitor the contractor to ensure the statement is followed and complied with.
Owner builder WHS responsibilities go further than this, including responsibilities where common plant or equipment are available for use by others and the provision of amenities including toilets, fresh water, shade etc.
When it comes to Work Cover and workers compensation, the regulations are a little confusing. Whilst strictly an insurance issue, it is worth a mention in this post.
As a rule, if you employ contractors, they will be responsible for covering each of their employees. There are however a couple of traps for the owner builder. If a contractor fails to carry sufficient appropriate work cover for their staff, you could be responsible. Additionally, if you employ a person on an hourly rate for labour only, it may be deemed that you are the employer and responsible for the worker compensation coverage for this person.
This is a short discussion only and an insight into the responsibilities and legal obligations of an Owner Builder in respect to WHS.
We cover this topic in detail in each of our owner builder courses and offer General Safety Induction Training at a discounted rate to our students.
Happy Owner Building
Rick Heaton is a Building and Construction Industry professional with formal tertiary qualifications in management and training.