A tunnel is an underground passage or opening that is: 

  • close to horizontal, and 
  • starts at ground level or at an excavation

The work includes making the tunnel and supporting systems (like a ventilation system) and other temporary work. 

PCBU specific duties

Risk management

Tunnelling work is dangerous. Some of the most common tunnelling hazards are: 

  • Tunnel stability, including rock or earth falls and rock bursts. 
  • Changing ground conditions, including strata and stress fluctuations. 
  • Limited space and access, including confined spaces
  • Air contamination or oxygen depletion. 
  • Fire or explosion. 
  • Using fixed and powered mobile plant. 
  • Hazardous substances.

You must, so far as is reasonably practicable, manage the risks associated with tunnelling.


Tunnelling can involve: 

These work activities require a high-risk work licence. As a PCBU, you must ensure that workers have the relevant licence before undertaking the work.

Safe work method statement (SWMS)

Some tunnelling work is high risk construction work. For example, where: 

  • There is any movement of powered mobile plant. 
  • There is a risk of a person falling more than 2 meters. 
  • The work involves, or is likely to involve, the disturbance of asbestos. 
  • The work is carried out in an area that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere. 

As a PCBU, you must ensure you prepare a safe work method statement (SWMS) before your workers begin high risk construction work. For more information on SWMS, please see our information sheet. To learn more about how to prepare a SWMS, please click here to 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.