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Myth: If Codes of Practice are disallowed, any regulations referenced in them are guides only.

Fact: The disallowance of a Code of Practice does not eliminate the responsibility for a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to comply with the law.

In South Australia, the Construction Work, Preventing Falls in Housing Construction and Safe Design of Structures Codes of Practice have been disallowed and so now serve as guidance however all work health and safety regulations referenced in them continue to apply.

While these three Codes of Practice now serve as guidance, the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) provide clear responsibilities for PCBUs to maintain safety on construction sites and keep their workers safe.


Myth: Fall prevention measures is only required when working more than 3 metres above the ground.

Fact: Fall prevention measures are required at any height.

Regulation 78(1) of the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) states that "a person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must manage, in accordance with Chapter 3 Part 1, risks to health and safety associated with a fall by a person from one level to another that is reasonably likely to cause injury to the person or any other person".

This regulation recognises that where there is a risk of a person falling from one level to another, the risk must be managed. Height or distance of the possible fall is immaterial to the responsibility to manage the risk. This requirement is consistent with the requirement of the previous regulations and has been in place in South Australia for almost 20 years.

Regulation 79 also recognises that in certain situations it may be necessary for a person to work at a height in circumstances where it is not possible to adopt measures to eliminate the risk of a fall. In these situations, the regulation provides greater detail and certainty on what needs to be done to minimise the risk of people falling. Again the various control measures listed are not height dependent and again they are very consistent with legal requirements that have prevailed in South Australia for a long period of time.

The notion that a PCBU only needs to consider fall prevention measures when a person is working at three metres or more above the ground is incorrect. It is a myth!

Myth: First aiders must have a Manage First Aid in the Workplace (Occupational First Aid) or Apply Advanced First Aid Certificate to meet the first aid requirements of the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations 2012.

Fact: The certificates are the minimum requirement recommended by the First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice.

First aiders who hold higher medical qualifications - such as a paramedic qualifications or a medical degree - do not need to also obtain a first aid certificate as they already meet or exceed the recommended standard.

The Code requires a person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) to determine the workplace's first aid requirements and ensure suitable facilities and an adequate number of qualified first aiders are in place.

  • Myth: Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, safety glasses and hard hats should be worn at all times
  • Fact: PPE only needs to be worn if it is the most effective way of controlling a risk to the health and safety of a worker and if it doesn't create a greater hazard.

So ... make sure the PPE is absolutely necessary to control the particular risk! For example, safety glasses may fog up in warm weather affecting clear vision and gloves and hard hats can prevent evaporation of perspiration and result in increased body temperature resulting in heat stress. What's necessary to minimise the risk of injury from one hazard may not be appropriate for another.

Remember, PPE does not control the hazard at the source and can only limit exposure to the harmful effects of the hazard. If a hazard is not present the PPE is not required. If a hazard is present, other controls should be applied and PPE is used if it is not reasonably practicable to adopt other measures.

For more information look at WHS Regulations 35 and 36 and the Code of Practice - How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks and remember all of the WHS responsibilities are in the context of what is reasonable.


Myth: There is a legal requirement that all construction sites must have fencing.

Fact: Security of a workplace is informed by the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA). The law requires that a workplace where construction work is carried out, must so far as is reasonably practicable, be secure from unauthorised access.

The expression 'so far as is reasonably practicable' qualifies the duty. In other words, if the person with management or control (PCBU) determines that it is not reasonably practicable to secure the site, security measures are not required. However, in making this decision, the PCBU must have regard to the risks that might arise from unauthorised access and the likelihood that unauthorised access will take place.

Fundamentally, the decision on securing the site is risk based. The relevant considerations in this process will be:

  1. How likely is it that unauthorised access will occur?

    Keep in mind that if the site is close to playgrounds, schools, shopping centres and high pedestrian traffic areas, the likelihood of unauthorised access is greater.


  1. Will the unauthorised access present a risk to health and safety?

    This is arguably a higher test and must be considered in conjunction with likelihood.  Some of the most obvious risks on a construction site are:
    1. slips and falls
    2. falls from height
    3. cuts and tears
    4. falling objects.

These risks may arise from hazards such as open penetrations; excavations; voids; elevated work areas; exposed timber or metal.  Other hazards such as electricity; water or substances also need to be considered.

The level of risks will vary during different stages of the construction and with different types of buildings.

In some situations the requirement for securing a site will be obvious. For example in the case of a building adjacent to a playground, it is likely that children and/or others may want to enter the site. Equally there is a risk to their health and safety from the hazards present on the site.  Accordingly there is both likelihood and risk in this situation.  In this case the workplace needs to be secured from unauthorised access.

Take the same construction in a remote area where there are no nearby houses or facilities for children.  In this situation unauthorised access is unlikely so the person in control of the site may choose to not secure the site.  In a normal suburban street where the likelihood of access is minimal and risks are low e.g. single story building, no excavations, then a secure access system may not be needed.

The words "secured from unauthorised access" are important. 'Secured' has its normal meaning of 'made secure' or 'fastened'. This means the system must be sufficiently robust to prevent access.  Bunting or the use of plastic strips does not achieve this and is not acceptable. The security system will need to be a rigid structure such as a fence.

As noted above the level of risk will vary at different stages of construction. The risk may be much lower at lock up stage where access to the building is prevented. In this situation a security system such as a fence may no longer be required.

In summary consider these things:

  1. Is it likely that unauthorised people will enter the site?
  2. If unauthorised people enter the workplace, are there risks to their health and safety?
  3. What is the stage of construction e.g. site preparation, frame and lock up?