Excavation work

  • Excavation work means work to make an excavation or to fill, or partly fill, an excavation. Excavation work includes the removal of soil or rock from a site to form an open face, hole or cavity. This includes trenches, shafts and tunnels.

Excavation work can involve: demolition, asbestos removal, explosives and/or high-risk construction work, but does not include a: 

  • Mine 
  • Bore 
  • Trench used for burial 

PCBU specific duties

As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), you have a duty to manage the risks of excavation work. Other specific duties include:

  • Ensuring workers have the relevant high risk work licence before work is commenced
  • Ensuring all asbestos that may be disturbed by the excavation work is removed by a competent person.  
  • Contacting Before You Dig Australia to check locations of electrical cables and other assets. Information on underground essential services must be: 
    • Made available to workers, principal contractor and subcontractors 
    • Readily available for inspection 
    • Kept until the work finishes or for at least 2 years after a notifiable incident
  • Securing the work area from unauthorised access before excavating a trench that is more than 1.5m deep
  • Preparing a safe work method statement (SWMS) if the excavation work being carried out:
    • Is in or near a shaft or trench that is 1.5 metres deep, or a tunnel 
    • Where there is a risk of a person falling more than 2 metres, and 
    • Where there is a risk of mobile powered plant colliding with pedestrians or other powered mobile plant. 

For more information on SWMS, please refer to our information sheet. To learn more about how to prepare a SWMS,  access the interactive SWMS tool

For more information

Model Codes of Practice

Other resources

  • Did you know

    The WHS regulator in your state or territory can provide practical advice, resources and tools to help you be safe when working in construction. They can also let you know which WHS laws apply to you.