Better safety and less red tape under streamlined building scheme

Joint Media Release
  • Leader of the Government in the Senate
  • Minister for Employment
  • Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
  • Senator for Tasmania
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Changes announced today to safety accreditation arrangements for builders working on Australian Government-funded construction projects will cut red tape, boost competition and ensure safety standards are enhanced from 1 January next year.

These changes to the Australian Government Building and Construction Work Health and Safety Accreditation Scheme respond to the review of the Scheme undertaken by the Department of Employment and an expert advisory panel.

The Scheme was established in response to the Cole Royal Commission by the Howard Government and is administered by the Federal Safety Commissioner.

“These improvements will benefit workers, their employers and importantly ensure that Commonwealth-funded building projects are safer and not mired in red tape,” Senator Abetz said.

“As a result of these changes, the Federal Safety Commissioner will be able to better focus on underperforming builders and ensure timely compliance audits.

“At present, some companies have not been audited for up to three years.”

Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Josh Frydenberg welcomed the announcement as a commonsense approach to minimising the regulatory burden for the building and construction industry.

“The Review clearly showed that more could be done to address concerns about the costs of Scheme accreditation, particularly for small and medium sized companies,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“These changes make an important contribution to the Government’s Cutting Red Tape agenda and will assist in fostering growth in the building and construction sector.”

The key improvements coming into force next year include:

  • The current prerequisite for companies to be also certified to Australian Standard AS4801 is duplicative and will be removed, as the Scheme’s criteria are far more rigorous. This improvement will save building companies seeking Scheme accreditation many months of time and thousands of dollars.

  • Exempting Commonwealth-funded projects involving single-dwelling houses from requiring the use of an accredited company. This will increase competition in the sector, particularly for the construction of Defence housing, by enabling smaller builders to compete alongside larger builders who can afford to offset the cost of accreditation.

  • Unaccredited builders will be permitted to undertake Commonwealth-funded work where they are in a joint venture with an accredited company and operate under the partner’s accredited systems. This means that smaller regional builders, for example, which might have only an occasional opportunity to tender for Government work, can operate as a head contractor in a joint venture with a Scheme-accredited partner.

  • The Scheme’s compliance arrangements will move to a targeted, risk‑based model instead of the current one-size-fits-all approach. All companies will be subject to more regular site audits, but more audit resources and support will be directed to companies requiring further improvement. High-performing companies will have the opportunity to be accredited for up to six years.

The Government expresses its thanks to the Advisory Panel, including Master Builders Australia, the Australian Constructors Association, the Civil Contractors Federation, the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Federal Safety Commissioner, Mr Alan Edwards, for their work on this review.

A summary of the key improvements to the Scheme are described below and further information, including the review report, can be found at www.fsc.gov.au.

Summary of improvements to the Australian Government Building and Construction Work Health and Safety Accreditation Scheme (Scheme)

Increasing financial thresholds:

  • The Scheme’s financial thresholds will be increased to reflect price movements since they were set in 2007. This ensures that increasingly lower-value projects are not being captured. The thresholds will be reviewed every three years in light of price movements in the industry.

Domestic housing

  • The Scheme will no longer apply to the small number of Commonwealth-funded projects involving the construction of individual-dwelling houses. The Government has limited involvement in this sector and, hence, the rationale of leveraging Commonwealth funding to leverage broader improvements is less relevant. Some state and territory regulators are increasing efforts to improved adherence to minimum legislative standards in this sector. Other residential developments, such as multi-unit projects, will continue to be covered.

Removing the prerequisite for AS/NZS 4801:2001

  • Building and construction companies seeking accreditation under the Scheme will no longer be required to obtain Australian Standard AS4801 (or equivalent) as a prerequisite for accreditation.

Extending maximum period of accreditation

  • The maximum accreditation period will be increased from three years to up to six years for consistent high performers, with the introduction of a streamlined reaccreditation process to minimise paperwork and compliance costs.

A targeted, risk-based compliance model

  • A new risk-based compliance model will be introduced to better target audit resources at companies requiring additional support or those with poor safety performance. While all companies will continue to be subject to regular audits, the compliance burden will be reduced for companies with a demonstrated good safety performance over time.

Extending joint venture arrangements to domestic firms

  • Domestic unaccredited builders will now have the opportunity to undertake Commonwealth-funded building work where they are in a joint venture with an accredited company and operate under the partner’s Scheme-accredited system.

Streamlined application processes and improved guidance material

  • A range of administrative improvements will be introduced by the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner. These include clearer guidance material to assist companies to understand the requirements when applying, and to better prepare for on-site audits. Online application and guidance material will be introduced in early 2015, reducing the time taken to become accredited.

Expanding recognition of Scheme accreditation

  • During 2015, it is anticipated that Scheme accreditation will be recognised as meeting the initial work health and safety application requirements for all state and territory prequalification schemes (for civil and commercial construction projects).

International companies

  • The Federal Safety Commissioner will undertake consultations to identify further opportunities to improve access for international firms to increase competition and utilisation of international expertise, while ensuring competitive neutrality for domestic firms.

For more information

Media line: (02) 6240 8667, media@employment.gov.au