Responsibilities of principal contractors



Under the harmonised legislation, principal contractors have a number of obligations and responsibilities.

The principal contactor is responsible for:


  • management and control of the workplace (including, without limitation, the coordination of the works on site);
  • management of risks associated with the carrying out of the construction work;
  • management of the security of the workplace to ensure no unauthorised access;
  • preparing and maintaining a work health and safety management plan for the workplace, informing workers about the plan and reviewing and revising it as necessary;
  • if there is 'high risk' construction work, obtaining safe work method statements (SWMS) for all such work. High risk work includes, but is not limited to, working at heights where the fall is greater than 2 metres, demolition, disturbance of asbestos, working in confined spaces, any movement of powered mobile plant. Powered mobile plant includes trucks, excavators and any earth moving equipment. 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.

In addition, the principal contractor must ensure that the workplace has suitable arrangements with respect to, amongst other matters:

  • 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 PCBUs) 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.

Penalties apply for failure to comply with the relevant responsibilities.

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