The Building Code for the construction industry

The Building Code promotes fair, cooperative and productive workplace relations on building sites. It sets out the Commonwealth Government's expected standards on Commonwealth funded construction projects. The Building Code applies to building industry participants who have submitted an expression of interest or tender for Commonwealth-funded building work. Once a building contractor becomes subject to the Building Code, they are required to comply with it at all times when undertaking building work, regardless of whether the project they are working on has received Commonwealth Government funding.

FWBC has primary responsibility for monitoring compliance with the Building Code and providing advice and information to the industry.

Building Code compliance activities

In the 2015–16 financial year, FWBC continued to build on the foundations of the previous reporting period with regard to the Building Code. For the greater part of 2014, FWBC conducted voluntary Building Code audits as part of an education and engagement program with the industry. Throughout this voluntary program, where potential breaches of the Building Code were identified, FWBC undertook that there would not be a consequence of sanctions. Rather, contractors were given advice and assistance to rectify the potential breaches and the necessary reform was initiated.

After establishing its expectations of the industry, FWBC commenced compulsory Building Code compliance activity in January 2015 on construction sites across Australia. Since then, where breaches of the Building Code are identified through a site visit, inspection or audit, sanctions may be sought if the failure is not, or cannot be, voluntarily rectified to the satisfaction of the Director.

During the 2015–16 financial year, FWBC initiated 503 Building Code compliance activities, including 112 audits and 391 site inspections nationally. This is an increase of nearly 300% on the previous period. Of the 74 concluded Building Code audits, 59 identified potential issues which were voluntarily rectified. FWBC will continue to audit projects during the 2016–17 financial year to ensure that voluntary rectification measures are being satisfactorily implemented. Failure to implement such measures could result in the Director making a recommendation to the Minister for sanction.

#Table 10 sets out the Building Code site inspections and audits nationally.

Table 10: Building Code site inspections and audits

State

2014–15

2015–16

NSW

19

98

VIC

40

126

QLD

7

58

WA

21

50

SA

7

25

TAS

18

48

ACT

6

67

NT

10

31

TOTAL

128

503

Communications and capability

FWBC has developed a suite of educational material to assist industry stakeholders to understand their rights, responsibilities and obligations under the Building Code. These include:

  • e-tools such as the FWBC On Site mobile application, which was updated to include a questionnaire on Building Code compliance and drug and alcohol requirements;
  • fact sheets and educational material, such as industry alerts and media releases regarding important information about the Building Code;
  • direct responses to enquiries from industry participants via the 1800 hotline, Building Code mailbox and web enquiries facility; and
  • educating industry participants on the requirements of the Building Code when conducting activities such as site visits, inspections and audits.

Investigators and senior executives regularly present to stakeholders on a variety of topics, including the Building Code.

Fitness for work – Drug and alcohol requirements

Since 16 October 2015, all building contractors covered by the Building Code have been required to ensure that their management of drugs and alcohol in the workplace is reflected in their workplace health, safety and rehabilitation management system. This requirement helps to ensure that no person attending a site to perform building work does so under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. On projects with Commonwealth funding of a particular threshold, building contractors must also have a fitness-for-work policy that includes drug and alcohol testing.

Following the introduction of the drug and alcohol requirements, FWBC undertook a three-stage approach to auditing the drug and alcohol testing requirements.

Stage 1 – Education

FWBC focused on educating the building and construction industry by disseminating information and helping contractors to understand the implications of the drug and alcohol policy. Educational material included the launch of a Building Code section in the FWBC On Site mobile application with a compliance questionnaire on drug and alcohol requirements, presentations to industry stakeholder and voluntary FWBC reviews of principal contractors' drug and alcohol policies.

Stage 2 – Feedback and voluntary rectification

FWBC provided feedback on contractors' compliance with the drug and alcohol requirements. During this stage, FWBC assisted contractors to voluntarily rectify issues to achieve compliance.

Stage 3 – Audits

On 1 February 2016, FWBC began the final stage of its implementation of the drug and alcohol requirements. The agency moved to auditing contractors' fitness-for-work policies and the practical implementation of drug and alcohol testing on site.

The new requirements promote higher workplace safety standards for construction sites.

Enterprise agreement assessments

Following a decision by the Minister for Employment on 6 May 2016, FWBC's role expanded to include the assessment of new enterprise agreements made on or after 18 May 2016 for compliance with the requirements of the Building Code 2013, a role previously undertaken by the Department of Employment. This means that FWBC is now the central agency to assist the building and construction industry in applying the Building Code 2013. On 6 May 2016, the Minister rescinded the previous practice of deeming registered enterprise agreements automatically compliant with the Building Code 2013.

FWBC assesses enterprise agreements made on or after 18 May 2016 against the requirements of the Building Code 2013 and also assesses draft agreements at the request of industry.

FWBC highlights to the industry that building contractors covered by existing enterprise agreements, awards and other workplace arrangements can continue to bid for Commonwealth-funded work, while contractors covered by enterprise agreements made on or after 18 May 2016 that contain clauses inconsistent with the Building Code 2013 are ineligible to express interest in, or tender for, Commonwealth-funded building work.

In 2015–16, to help industry participants understand its new role in assessing enterprise agreements, FWBC:

  • published comprehensive information for industry stakeholders on the FWBC website, media releases and industry E-Alerts;
  • developed fact sheets, including frequently asked questions from industry participants and a flow chart outlining the enterprise agreement assessment process;
  • established an email inbox enabling industry participants to submit their enterprise agreement assessment questions;
  • created a simplified online submission process for enterprise agreements;
  • engaged additional staff to respond to stakeholder enquiries and assess enterprise agreements; and
  • conducted presentations nationally to ensure industry participants have a clear understanding of their obligations.