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2. Contract specifications

Contract specifications

The contract specification documents are an important first stage in specifying health and safety requirements to contractors tendering for works. By ensuring that health and safety requirements are clearly identified in specification documents, several key messages are conveyed. These are:

  • occupational health and safety (OHS) is an important priority to the way of conducting business, including contractors engagement
  • contractors are required to demonstrate that they have an appropriate OHS management system and to verify its implementation in practice, including maintaining records, and making them available to the principal and the superintendent
  • contractors are required to demonstrate that they comply with contract specific OHS requirements.
  • contractors are required to liaise with the host (principal) regarding specific issues to be incorporated into the site induction.

Smaller contractors typically have less formalised OHS management systems, in comparison to larger contracting organisations. The contractor management system should be sufficiently flexible to accommodate the different levels of OHS system development. For major contracts contractors are expected to demonstrate a higher level of development of their OHS management system. For minor contracts, contractors are required to demonstrate appropriate health and safety competencies associated with performing the contract tasks.

Classification of contract works

The decision to classify a contract as major or minor will depend on a range of factors including:

  • level of risk associated with the contract
  • duration of the contract
  • complexity of the contract
  • value of the contract.

High risk construction work

Section 5.1.3 of the OHS regulations classifies the following works as high risk construction works:

  • where there is a risk of a person falling more than 2 metres
  • on telecommunications towers
  • involving demolition
  • involving the removal or likely disturbance of asbestos
  • involving structural alterations that require temporary support to prevent collapse
  • involving a confined space
  • involving a trench or shaft if the excavated depth is more than 15 metres
  • involving a tunnel
  • involving the use of explosives
  • on or near pressurised gas distribution mains or piping
  • on or near chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines
  • on or near energised electrical installations or services
  • in an area that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere
  • involving tilt-up or precast concrete
  • on or adjacent to roadways or railways used by road or rail traffic
  • at workplaces where there is any movement of powered mobile plant
  • in an area where there are artificial extremes of temperature
  • in, over or adjacent to water or other liquids where there is a risk of drowning
  • involving diving.

These works must not be performed without appropriate safe work method statements prepared by the contractor and confirmed to be adequate in the specific circumstances of the site. Workers must be trained in the use of the safe work method statements.

For the purposes of Department of Health and Human Services projects, construction work on occupied facilities or facilities with specialised protocols shall be deemed high risk construction work and must be managed and controlled as per the requirements of Section 5.1.3.

Level of complexity

Where the project involves the use of subcontracted labour the contract should be classified as major. Requirements for suitable systems of selection and supervision also apply to subcontractors used on projects. 

Duration of contract

Contracts that extend beyond 2 years should be classified as major and contractors required to have formalised OHS management systems that reflect the type of work they are performing.

Value of contract

Although contracts cannot be classified as major on cost alone and depending on other considerations, contracts over $250,000 are generally considered as a major contract.

Contract specification - health and safety requirements

Incorporation of health and safety requirements into contract documentation should be considered as early as possible in the specification stage.

Consultation should be undertaken with department or agency health and safety personnel, contract managers and other relevant personnel to ensure that relevant health and safety issues are identified and considered when preparing specification documentation.

Determining OHS requirements for contract specifications

Different approaches should be considered in relation to OHS requirements for major and minor contracts. These are outlined below.

Model OH&S special conditions

Infrastructure Planning and Delivery (IPD) participates in whole of government construction activities, including the development of model OHS special condition clauses to be used in all government and agency contracts. These model clauses will be made available by the IPD project manager. Reference should be made to OHS specification and tender document requirements of this guideline for model OHS special condition and contract clauses for incorporation into major contracts. The clauses cover compliance, management systems, risk assessment, reporting, incident notification and non-compliance.

Tenderer OHS management system questionnaire

The tenderer OHS management system questionnaire is to be incorporated with tender documents for all major contracts. The questionnaire is to be completed by tenderers and submitted as part of their tender to enable evaluation of their health and safety competency. For minor works contracts, the questionnaire may only be avoided if pre-qualified tenderers are selected from the Department of Infrastructure, construction supplier register (CSR).

Health and safety coordination plans

Guidelines for preparation of a health and safety coordination plan are contained in section 5.1.17 of the OHS regulations. The completed health and safety coordination plan should be inspected by the superintendent prior to commencement of the construction work.

The health and safety coordination plan which must be available for inspection is to include:

  • a list of the names, positions and responsibilities of all persons who will have specific responsibilities for health and safety
  • the arrangements for the co-ordination of the health and safety of persons engaged to perform construction work
  • the arrangements for managing occupational health and safety incidents when they occur
  • any site safety rules, with the arrangements for ensuring that all persons at the workplace are informed of the rules.

Specification elements to be provided by consultants at the documentation stage

In general terms, the contract specification should incorporate the following contract health and safety requirements. Example clauses can be found in the model OHS specification clauses section of this guideline:

  • comply with health and safety legislative requirements
  • demonstrate evidence of an OHS management system
  • complete the tenderer OHS management system questionnaire
  • develop a health and safety coordination plan
  • develop an induction and training register
  • prepare safe work method statements for all high risk construction work
  • OHS performance reporting
  • OHS incident reporting
  • establish a recording and action system for non-compliance.