Structures (including buildings)

Designers, suppliers, importers, constructors and installers of buildings and structures including owners and managers, have health and safety responsibilities.

This page explains what your safety obligations according to the Work Health and Safety Act are if you're a designer, supplier, importer or builder of a structure.

A structure is anything that is constructed, and can be fixed or moveable, temporary or permanent. Examples of structures include buildings, masts, towers, scaffolding, pipelines, roads, railways, tunnels and shafts.

References to structures within the work health and safety legislation also includes any component or part of a structure. However, duties associated with structures do not extend to materials or individual components used in the construction of a structure. Instead, materials or individual components are classified as plant or substances under the work health and safety legislation. For example, a scaffold is classified as a structure and the scaffolding tubes, couplers or frames and materials are classified as plant.


A designer is a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) who:

  • Prepares sketches, plans or drawings for a structure, including variations to a plan or changes to a structure
  • makes decisions for incorporation into a design that may affect the health or safety of people who construct, use or carry out other activities in relation to the structure.

A designer includes PCBUs who are:

  • architects, building designers, engineers, building surveyors, interior designers, landscape architects, town planners etc that contribute to, or have overall responsibility for, any part of the design
  • building service designers, engineering firms or others designing services that are part of the structure such as ventilation, electrical systems and permanent fire extinguisher installations
  • contractors carrying out design work as part of their contribution to a project (for example an engineering contractor providing design, procurement and construction management services)
  • temporary works engineers, including those designing formwork, falsework, scaffolding and sheet piling
  • persons who specify how structural alteration, demolition or dismantling work is to be carried out.

A PCBU who alters or modifies a design without consulting the original or subsequent designer will assume the duties of a designer.

A designer must:

  • obtain from the client information about the hazards and risks at the site where construction of the building or structure will be undertaken
  • have a good understanding of how the structure will be built, commissioned, used, maintained, repaired, refurbished or modified, decommissioned, demolished or dismantled and disposed or recycled.  Including, foreseeable hazards that may occur during the structure’s lifecycle
  • incorporate control measures within the design which eliminates hazards or minimises the associated risks, so far as is reasonably practicable, to those that will interact with the structure throughout its lifecycle. For example, the design must include sufficient space and safe access for maintenance work
  • give design information about the structure to each person who is provided the design, or upon request from anyone undertaking the construction, maintenance demolition etc. of the structure, including information to ensure any associated activity can be undertaken without risks to health and safety, and
  • Provide a written report specifying the hazards that create a health and safety risk to those carrying out construction work in relation to the design, and which are unique to the design or structure.  The report must be provided to the PCBU who commissioned the design.

Further information is available in s22 ot the Work Health and Safety Act or in SafeWork NSW Code of Practice: Safe design of structures

Importers and suppliers

Importers and suppliers of materials for buildings and structures must:

  • obtain all necessary information from the manufacturer required to ensure the structure is without risk to health and safety.  This may involve arranging verification of the design
  • provide information that is required by the purchaser to use safely.

For more information on the responsibilities of importers, see S24 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 or if you're a supplier, see s25 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Constructors, installers and commissioners

Constructors, installers and commissioners must:

  • construct, install or commission the structure having regard to the information provided by the designer, manufacturer, importer or supplier, or competent person
  • consult with, and provide all relevant safety information to, subcontractors engaged to build, maintain and use the structure
  • communicate any safety concerns with the designer and resolve the issues
  • use appropriate tools and equipment
  • have competent people undertake this work
  • manage risks of construction.

You can review s26 of the Work Health and Safety Act to find out more about your responsibilities.

Owners and managers

Owners and managers must:

  • only use the structure for the purpose for which it was designed
  • maintain the structure as necessary to prevent safety hazards to people in or near it
  • obtain necessary information that is required to use and maintain the structure safely
  • ensure workers who work at, inspect and maintain the structure are provided with all necessary information to work safely.

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