Construction work

Construction work includes any work involving:

  • construction
  • renovation, refurbishment, alteration, conversion
  • fit out
  • commissioning / decommissioning a building or structure
  • maintenance and repair
  • demolition / dismantling.

Apart from involving buildings, roads and other major structures, construction work also includes:

  • any installation or testing carried out in connection with construction work
  • the removal from the workplace of any product or waste resulting from demolition
  • prefabrication or testing of elements, at a place specifically established for the construction work, for use in construction work
  • the assembly of prefabricated elements to form a structure, or the disassembly of prefabricated elements forming part of a structure
  • any installation, testing or maintenance of an essential service in relation to a structure
  • any work connected with an excavation
  • any work connected with any preparatory work or site preparation (including landscaping as part of site preparation) carried out in connection with an activity referred to as construction work
  • carried out on, under or near water, including work on buoys and obstructions to navigation.

Construction work does not include:

  • manufacture of plant
  • prefabrication of elements, other than at a place specifically established for the construction work, for use in construction work
  • construction or assembly of a structure that, once constructed or assembled, is intended to be transported to another place
  • testing, maintenance or repair work of a minor nature carried out in connection with a structure
  • mining or the exploration for, or extraction of, minerals.

High risk construction work

High risk construction work involves:

  • a risk of a person falling more than 3 metres
  • work carried out on a telecommunication tower
  • demolition of an element of a structure that is load-bearing or otherwise related to the physical integrity of the structure
  • the disturbance, or the likelihood of disturbance, of asbestos
  • structural alterations or repairs that require temporary support to prevent collapse
  • work carried out in or near a confined space
  • work carried out in or near
    • a shaft or trench with an excavated depth greater than 1.5 metres, or
    • a tunnel
  • the use of explosives
  • work carried out on or near pressurised gas distribution mains or piping
  • work carried out on or near chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines
  • work carried out on or near energised electrical installations or services
  • work carried out in an area that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere
  • tilt-up or precast concrete
  • work carried out on, in or adjacent to a road, railway, shipping lane or other traffic corridor that is in use by traffic other than pedestrians
  • work carried out in an area at a workplace in which there is any movement of powered mobile plant
  • work carried out in an area in which there are artificial extremes of temperature
  • work carried out in or near water or other liquid that involves a risk of drowning
  • diving work.


Worker injury claims in the construction industry on average cost $20,000 per person, totalling $29 million per year.

The most common injuries to workers in the construction industry are from:

  • muscular and musculoskeletal trauma
  • slips and trips
  • cuts
  • electrical hazards
  • hitting or being hit by an object
  • mental stress
  • fatigue.

Common hazards include:

  • body strain from repetitive movements, or from lifting, pushing or pulling heavy loads
  • noise from machinery
  • falls from unguarded areas or fragile roofing
  • crush injuries and fractures from plant or machinery
  • electric shock from plant that is not adequately protected or isolated.

2020 falls from heights snapshot

Download snapshot in PDF

Employer / PCBU responsibilities

Your employer or PCBU must:

  • identify hazards for the specific workplace
  • decide on risk control measures
  • ensure risk controls are reasonably practicable for the specific workplace
  • implement risk controls
  • monitor risk controls
  • review risk controls.

Any high risk construction work requires the completion of a Safe Work Method Statement.

A number of Codes of Practice give detailed practical guidance on specific hazards and control measures relevant to the construction industry.

Priority industry

The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022 has identified the construction industry as a priority industry for injury/fatality prevention activities.

The Construction Industry Profile presents an overview of the main causes of workers' injuries and fatalities, and includes a detailed analysis of incidents involving falls from a height, which is the second most common cause of injury and responsible for the most fatalities.

Further information

Safe work method statement for high risk construction work - Safe Work Australia

AS1418: Cranes, including hoists and winches - Available from our Library

AS/NZS 1576: Scaffolding (Parts 1 - 4) - Available from our Library

AS2550: Cranes, hoists and winches-Safe use - Available from our Library