Guidance note - accommodation
This guidance note assists employers or a business (PCBU) meet their obligations when providing or choosing accommodation for workers when they're working away from home.
This guidance note aims to assist persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU’s) understand and meet their obligations under the NSW work health and safety laws when designing or choosing the form of accommodation provided for workers during work undertaken away from home. It makes reference to the Code of Practice Managing the Work Environment and Facilities.
Some businesses supply accommodation to their workers when they are temporarily working away from home. This may be during events, festivals, road construction activities, rural/farming or fly-in fly-out scenarios and other temporary work sites or activities like fruit picking etc where the worker is required to be away from home for a period of time.
There are several factors you should consider when providing accommodation, including whether the work activity is in a metropolitan, regional or remote area and whether temporary or permanent accommodation will be used.
Note: in this factsheet, the term ‘worker’ includes volunteers and other persons who may be considered a worker under work health and safety laws.
If you are a PCBU you have a duty of care to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers while they are at work, and you are responsible for complying with the NSW work health and safety laws. Further information on legal obligations is available on the SafeWork Website .
Sometimes there may be multiple duty holders involved in the work activity requiring accommodation. Where this happens, each duty holder is responsible for complying with work health and safety (WHS) laws, even if another duty holder has the same duty.
If you are providing accommodation, or a site for workers to use their own shelter (eg. tents):
- You must ensure the site and those premises are maintained so that the person staying in it is not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
- It should be included in
- Induction activities when workers arrive at the site, and
- all emergency management plans including evacuation during an emergency.
This ensures that workers who may be using their own shelter:
- understand where they should set up and are aware of things to consider during set up, use, packing away
- who they should contact if there are any issues with the site
- are included in emergency plans – even though they may not be working at the time of an incident, they may be affected by it whilst staying onsite in their own shelter.
What might accommodation look like?
Accommodation may take different forms but will generally be either:
|Permanent accommodation||Temporary accommodation|
|An existing structure appropriate for accommodation such as a house, hotel, holiday park||A structure erected for the duration of the work activity, where the temporary structure is provided and erected either by the PCBU or the worker on a location provided / nominated by the PCBU.|
What should accommodation include?
Whether it is a permanent or a temporary structure provided by the PCBUs, accommodation should be located away from the work activities happening during the event to enable the worker to obtain adequate rest. If accommodation villages are being used, such as with in ‘fly in fly out’ scenarios where groups of workers use the accommodation for multiple days at a time, they should be designed to encourage socialisation within social distancing guidelines whilst also providing space for relaxation and privacy.
The NSW Code of Practice for managing the work environment and facilities identifies that accommodation facilities should also:
- be lockable, with safe entry and exit (including where accommodation is accessed by ladder due to its location being above animal quarters)
- meet all relevant structural and stability requirements
- meet electrical and fire safety standards
- have a supply of drinking water
- have toilets, washing and laundry facilities
- be regularly cleaned and have rubbish collected
- be provided with sleeping quarters shielded from noise and vibration
- have crockery, utensils and eating facilities
- have lighting, heating cooling and ventilation
- have storage cupboards and other furniture
- be provided with a refrigerator or cool room, and have all fittings, appliances and equipment in good condition.
What should be considered when choosing a location for temporary accommodation?
Sometimes PCBUs may set up temporary accommodation such as caravans or tents for their worker’s use or provide a location for workers to set up their own temporary accommodation for the duration of the work being completed. Common examples include music festivals, agricultural shows other similar events. In these situations, PCBUs should still ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the location and the type of temporary accommodation being provided is appropriate. This includes that the location has access to or is within reasonable distance to the facilities listed above and its use doesn’t create health and safety risks.
The following factors should be considered when choosing a location for temporary accommodation:
- the surface is reasonably level
- the location is away from danger zones for natural hazards like flash flooding or other incoming weather
- people using the location will be protected from incoming weather e.g. thunderstorms, hail, lightning, strong winds, extreme heat or cold
- there is access to reasonable shade
- there are no large trees or trees that appear to be dead or have dead limbs or have unattached limbs or material suspended in its canopy
- drinking, toileting and washing facilities available
- access to eating facilities
- there are no trip hazards around the site (including those created by tent ropes or the structures themselves)
- adequate lighting and access to electricity (this can include electricity from a generator)
- people staying in the accommodation can safely enter and exit the location, including in an emergency situation
- flora in the vicinity will not cause any risks or injuries (ability to cut or scratch etc.)
- there are no risks associated with the fauna expected (e.g. venomous snakes, ants etc.)
- the accommodation is in a location which is separate from other people attending the event
- the accommodation (e.g. tents etc) is erected in a way that won’t expose the worker or others to injury
- no other hazards are on the site which could cause injury
- workers staying in the location are aware of potential hazards.
Maintenance of accommodation
Where a PCBU provides accommodation for workers, it must ensure that the accommodation is maintained so that the workers are not exposed to risks to health and safety during its use. Where:
- workers are staying in permanent accommodation like hotels or holiday parks located near the event or temporary work site, maintenance activities may be paid for by the PCBU responsible for the accommodation as part of its occupier fees.
- workers are staying in their own shelter, for example circus workers using their own mobile homes caravans or use of personal horse floats with ‘lean-to’ tents attached, PCBUs should ensure that the common areas around the accommodation are maintained to avoid hazards which could cause injury.
However, if temporary accommodation such as tents are being provided by PCBUs as part of the event or temporary worksite, PCBUs are responsible for ongoing maintenance of the accommodation itself. One way to ensure temporary accommodation is being regularly maintained to prevent WHS risks is to include the area containing the temporary accommodation in the overall event or worksite management plan.
What about rural workers?
The NSW Work Health and Safety Act 2011 provides specific responsibilities around the provision of accommodation for rural workers. If you are a PCBU of a rural premises, you must provide suitable accommodation free of cost to a rural worker if the work requires the worker to live on or near the premises for more than a 24-hour period. Further information about rural accommodation is available in the Code of Practice Accommodation for rural agricultural work.