Safe work statements will be required for high-risk construction work, while workplaces exposed to lead risk will have to monitor the health of their workers and those involving asbestos exposure need to have a management plan in place under new occupational health and safety laws in South Australia which will be fully in effect from January 1 next year.

In a statement released on Tuesday, SafeWork SA said a 12-month grace period originally put in place to allow businesses and workers come to terms with the states newly harmonised Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) is set to expire on December 31, meaning new requirements relating to construction, diving, electrical, hazardous chemicals, lead risk work, manufacturers, suppliers and importers, naturally occurring asbestos, noise and registration and accreditation will be in full force at the start of next year.

Under the new laws, a safe work method statement will be mandatory for all high-risk construction work, with additional duties for the principal contractor.

The laws will also require:

  • Audiometric testing for workers who frequently use noise-protection equipment
  • Specific health monitoring for lead risk work and a requirement to notify SafeWork SA of any such work
  • A management plan including training for workplaces exposed to naturally occurring asbestos
  • New competencies for diving work, including qualifications and dive plans
  • Additional measures relating to the supply, usage and handling of prohibited and restricted carcinogens

The new measures come as the construction industry continues to grapple with challenges associated with workplace injuries. While on a national scale the number of fatalities recorded on building sites throughout Australia has fallen from 25 in 2012 to 19 thus far this year (as at December 12), the industry still accounts for more than 10 per cent of all workplace deaths and is third behind only agriculture and forestry and transport and warehousing in terms of overall numbers of fatalities.

Earlier this month, Adelaide-based Badge Constructions (SA) Pty Ltd was fined $100,000 plus legal fees following an incident nearly two years ago in which workers were put in danger after a concrete staircase collapsed during the building of the South Australia Police Academy at Taperoo – the Adelaide Magistrates Court hearing there was no steel reinforcing connecting the stairs to an adjoining first-floor concrete slab.

SafeWork SA executive director Bryan Russell says the transition year has given people time to familiarise themselves with the new changes and that the regulator is providing additional public information sessions to answer further questions.

“We are working with business, industry and workers to keep South Australians safe and healthy at work,” Russell said.