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.

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 following data analysis has helped inform our outreach and prevention activities, so that they can be directed where they are most needed:

  • 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
  • the Work-related injuries and fatalities in construction, 2003 to 2013 report provides a more comprehensive analysis on worker profiles and fatalities, work-related injuries, workers' compensation claims and hospitalisation of construction workers.


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.

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.

Further information

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

National Code of Practice for Precast, Tilt-Up and Concrete Elements in Building Construction

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