Site supervision for housing construction

This guidance is for principle contractors undertaking housing construction. Builders must provide adequate site supervision to ensure that work is carried out safely and without risks to health.

Date last updated

Wednesday 05 Feb 2020

Industries and topics
  • Construction

About this guidance

To comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act), the supervision provided by the builder must be effective — it must be clearly delegated, competent and timely.

This guidance assists builders to determine the adequacy of the OHS supervision they provide on their housing construction sites.

This guidance applies to classes 1, 2 and 10 of the Building Code of Australia — the construction, renovation or extension of:

  • detached houses
  • attached dwellings, separated from each other by a fire resisting wall, such as terrace, row or town houses
  • boarding or guest houses and hostels or similar with a floor area less than 300 square metres
  • ancillary buildings to the above, such as private garages, gazeboes and carports

Excluded from this guidance are:

  • multi-storey buildings above 3 habitable storeys
  • construction of more than 6 facilities on a development under the management and control of a single principle contractor

Information about workplace facilities on medium sized residential construction developments is available in Related information.

Who needs site supervision?

Site supervision is needed by:

  • builder's employees
  • builder's contractors
  • contractor's employees
  • visitors to the building site

What is site supervision?

Site supervision is the general direction, coordination and oversight of the on-site work processes.

OHS supervision for housing construction sites involves:

  • deciding when particular contractors or phases of the construction process can start, and when it is necessary to suspend a process
  • providing coordination and general instruction for work associated with one process so as not to endanger persons engaged in other processes
  • being aware of a dangerous work practice or situation — then issuing prompt directions necessary to safeguard site personnel and/or the general public from harm
  • monitoring the general conduct of work for compliance with the builder's and/or contractors' OHS procedures and safe work method statements (if required)

Contractors also have a duty to provide the necessary supervision to their workers to enable them to perform their work safely and without risks to their health.

Supervisors should keep brief but clear records of supervision. These could be diary notes of site visits, verbal OHS instructions, and/or copies of written OHS directions issued.

Clearly delegated supervision

For supervision to be effective, the supervisor should have the clearly delegated authority of the builder to:

  • make prompt decisions on behalf of the builder
  • issue directions on matters that could adversely affect the health or safety of on-site personnel or the general public
  • in all other respects, act on the builder's behalf in discharging the builder’s on-site OHS responsibilities

Competent supervision

Competent supervision requires the supervisor to have:

  • a general knowledge of the OHS rights and responsibilities of the builder, and of those engaged on site, or providing goods or services to the site
  • a general understanding of the construction sequences, processes and work practices associated with the type of construction being undertaken at the site
  • a general awareness of the hazards and risks associated with the types of materials, chemicals, plant and equipment used at the site
  • an understanding of the minimum controls necessary to safeguard site personnel and the general public from harm

Timely supervision

The supervisor's physical presence on-site is the optimum way of ensuring timely supervision.

Supervision is timely when:

  • the supervisor monitors on-site work practices, processes and procedures
  • delivery drivers, contractors and workers can seek and obtain the supervisor's direction in the event of uncertainty on what is required to safeguard health and safety

If the usual supervisor knows they will be un-contactable for a short period, arrangements should be made with key site personnel to effectively delegate urgent decision-making responsibility pending the supervisor's return to availability.

Between site visits, supervisors can continue to exercise timely supervision by phone or other electronic means.