Compliance code: Excavation - Key changes

A guide to explain the changes between the new and old excavation compliance code.


Key changes for 2019/20

The Minister for Workplace Safety, Jill Hennessy, approved minor amendments to 11 compliance codes (codes) made under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act), which includes the Excavation compliance code.

The minor amendments were made to:

  • reflect amendments to section 35 and 36 of the OHS Act by the Treasury and Finance Legislation Amendment Act 2018
  • improve style and branding consistency across the existing codes.

Change summary

Paragraph 23

Insert additional content (bold italics) and replace OHS Act reference to s36 with reference to s35:

"Employers who are required to consult on a matter must share information about the matter with employees, including relevant contractors and HSRs, give them a reasonable opportunity to express their views, and take those views into account before making a decision. If employees are represented by an HSR, the consultation must involve that HSR (with or without the involvement of the employees directly). If the employer and the employees have agreed to procedures for undertaking consultation, the consultation must be undertaken in accordance with those procedures. OHS Act s35".

Paragraphs 20, 21, 75 and breakout boxes before paragraphs 110, 159, 183

Replace "health and safety" with "health or safety".

Breakout box following paragraph 20

Insert missing full stop.

Front cover

Update front cover to 'Edition 2'.

Back cover

Update back cover with new head office phone and address.

Update translation service contact details.

Key changes for 2018/19

A guide to the key changes

The Excavation compliance code 2018 came into effect on 3 May 2018. It replaces the Safety precautions in trenching operations code of practice, 1988. The new code is based on the old code and is designed to:

  • be easy to read and use
  • align with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations)
  • reflect modern work practices and state of knowledge
  • align with other updated compliance codes.

New content

The new code has been significantly restructured and includes new information about:

  • the risk management process – Part 2
  • how to plan for excavation work – Part 3
  • controlling risks in excavation work – Part 4
  • excavation methods – Part 5.

Reference and style changes

The new code includes some standard updates:

  • New references to the relevant legislation when legal duties apply.
  • Additional cross-references to make related information easier to find in the code.

How to use this guide

The differences between the old and new codes are outlined in the following sections.

The sections reflect the new layout for the codes. Following these sections is a table that lists the headings of the old and new code for ease of comparison for duty holders.

Part 1 – Introduction

What has changed

The key changes include new information about:

  • Who has duties when excavation work is performed.
  • The risk management process.
  • Consultation duties for employers.
  • Duties to provide information, instruction, training and supervision, including construction induction and site induction.

Part 2 – Overview of the risk management process

What has changed

The key changes include:

  • Some information from the old code has been retained in relation to common hazards associated with excavation work
  • A large amount of new information has been added to provide an overview of how the risk management process can be applied to this type of work.

Part 3 – Planning excavation work

What has changed

The key changes include:

  • New content has been introduced that outlines how excavation work should be planned in accordance with the OHS Regulations, including:
  • The preparation of health and safety coordination plans.
  • Safe work method statements.
  • Licensing for high risk work and asbestos removal.
  • Providing notification to WorkSafe about excavation work before it starts.
  • Emergency procedures.
  • This part incorporates some original information from the old code about how to plan for work around essential services, and expands on this to also cover overhead power lines, underground services and adjacent buildings or structures.

Part 4 – Controlling risks in excavation work

What has changed

The key changes include:

  • Information from the old code in relation to placing the spoil pile and safety helmets has been incorporated, and expands on methods to control risks with information about:
  • How to manage loads near excavations.
  • Securing the work area and providing safe entry and exit.
  • Using plant.
  • Preventing falls and falling objects.
  • Using explosives.
  • Managing atmospheric conditions.
  • Undertaking manual excavation work or emergency works.

Part 5 – Excavation methods

What has changed

The key changes include:

  • New information about excavation methods such as trenching, tunnelling, shafts and bulk excavations.

Part 6 – Reducing the risk of ground collapse

What has changed

The key changes include:

  • The majority of information in the old code has been incorporated into this part of the new code, which outlines methods to reduce the risk of ground collapse. The information has been significantly updated and expanded, in line with modern work practices, state of knowledge and legislation.


What has changed

The key changes include:

  • An outline of the compliance framework, templates for health and safety coordination plans and safe work method statements and a list of Australian Standards relevant to the information in the code. The glossary of terms from the old code has been removed.

Comparison between the old code of practice and new compliance code

WorkSafe Advisory Service

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