- Posted by Chaker Khabbaz
- On 04/06/2021
Australian building regulations exist to ensure the safety of workers, building occupants, and people in the vicinity. These regulations set minimum standards on optimal building performance such as structural integrity requirements, building amenities, thermal efficiency, construction zones, and workplace safety measures.
By complying with building regulations, your construction company can mitigate the risk of disastrous events like foundations crumbling under pressure and structures being unable to withstand local environmental conditions. Doing so can also prevent major hazards such as asbestos exposure or falling debris affecting both workers and inhabitants. Plus, your company can avoid major legal trouble if you can prove that you’ve done your utmost to uphold standard building codes to State and Commonwealth Governments.
That said, there are many building regulations to wrap your head around, making compliance a challenging task. To help your construction company navigate building regulation compliance, here are some of the most crucial components to consider.
Building Code of Australia (BCA)
The BCA is a set of technical regulations established and updated by the Australian Building Codes Board. These regulations determine the minimum requirements for the design and construction of new buildings, and are mandatory for construction companies across all Australian States and Territories. BCA regulations also apply to renovation jobs and improvements to existing buildings.
Minimum mandatory requirements will vary depending on the building class, which is why the BCA is split into two volumes. The first volume provides guidelines for Class 2 to 9 commercial, industrial, multi-residential, and public buildings, while the second volume is mainly for residential buildings. If you run a medium or large construction company, you’ll primarily be using the first volume as a reference for extensive commercial building projects. As for the requirements, the BCA covers various aspects of construction. It includes minimum standards for structural stability, insulation and ventilation, fire protection, energy efficiency, damp-proofing, sanitary facilities, disability access, safety equipment, and emergency escape.
The best way to comply with BCA standards is to hire a consultant to assess your project goals and contract requirements. Consultants will report where your company currently stands with BCA compliance and highlight areas of your building you need to address. They may find that foundation materials are too weak or the building itself is susceptible to local weather-related hazards like flooding. You can then compile their findings into compliance checklists and forms so you can address compliance issues methodically before tackling a job.
Local construction zones and regulations
Building regulations about where certain buildings can go up often change from one locality to another. For example, the New South Wales (NSW) Government has specific development plans and land use frameworks for the Greater Parramatta and Olympic Peninsula corridor.
That means construction proposals may be denied if the building type and proposed location are not in line with the local government’s zoning plans.
Currently, Parramatta CBD is a metropolitan area with growing commercial activity, so constructing Class 5 office buildings makes sense for the area. On the other hand, construction of Class 8 factories has a higher chance of government approval in industry-focused precincts like Camellia. If building factories are too close to residential zones, they may affect people’s health through noise, chemical, or gas emission. Local governments may also limit construction in specific zones to protect local business interests, limit urban sprawl, and reserve land for environmental reasons. Whatever the case may be, directly contacting the municipality concerned with certain construction zones will help with compliance.
Work Health and Safety (WHS)
The WHS Act is a nationally recognised framework that guides organisations on mitigating risks and keeping on-site workers safe. It requires you to conduct risk assessments to identify the hazards associated with your construction jobs. Risks in large construction work may include falling hazards, unstable scaffolding, asbestos, sun exposure, heavy-lifting tasks, and structural collapse. As the contractor, it’s your job to assess the severity of any injury or illness resulting from these risks, as well as the likelihood they’ll occur before a project starts.
Depending on your findings, you’ll then need to minimise risks using various control measures. This may involve requiring workers to wear safety harnesses and hardhats, using trolleys or lifts for heavy loads, placing warning signs in visible areas, and isolating hazards with guardrails. More importantly, establishing procedures modelled after Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) will ensure workers are conducting their jobs safely. Job management systems like WorkBuddy offer checklist features using SWMS templates, so you can guide workers to compliance and finish a job to your standards.
However, keep in mind that there are slight differences in WHS regulations between states when addressing workplace risks. Australian Capital Territory (ACT) companies, in particular, must undertake asbestos awareness training to comply with WorkSafe ACT. Meanwhile, NSW companies governed by SafeWork NSW have specific guidelines on managing manufactured stone containing silica dust, given the rise in silicosis cases among NSW tradies.
Building regulation compliance can be extremely complex if your company is not organised and on top of the latest regulations. Fortunately, WorkBuddy offers a central platform that helps you oversee your compliance obligations and ensure technicians are following safety protocols. Request a demo today to see how it works.