Victoria’s Big Build: Delivering major infrastructure projects safely

Victoria’s Big Build: Delivering major infrastructure projects safely

RMIT welcomed Corey Hannett, Director-General of Victoria’s Major Transport Infrastructure Authority, to launch a new book that examines a leading health and safety model for the construction industry.

Co-authored by Distinguished Professor Helen Lingard and Professor Ron Wakefield from the Centre for Construction Work Health and Safety Research, the book looks at leading safety practice in construction in Australia.

Lingard unpacks the challenges facing the industry as demand for major infrastructure booms and explains why Victoria’s health and safety model is leading the way.

What are the health and safety challenges facing the construction industry?

The Australian construction industry is currently responding to an unprecedented demand for infrastructure construction work. In Victoria alone, the Major Transport Infrastructure Authority (MTIA) is delivering $70 billion of projects, amounting to 119 major road and rail projects extending to 2025.

This demand brings new and significant challenges in terms of workforce capability and performance, which unless managed carefully, could create unintended consequences, including work intensification, increased pressure and poor work health and safety outcomes.

Key industry stakeholders are mindful of this and are actively engaged in seeking new ways to ensure that workers’ health and safety forms an integral part of delivering construction projects.

03 December 2019


From left to right: RMIT Distinguished Professor Helen Lingard, Corey Hannett, Director-General of Victoria’s Major Transport Infrastructure Authority and RMIT Professor Ron Wakefield. From left to right: RMIT Distinguished Professor Helen Lingard, Corey Hannett, Director-General of Victoria’s Major Transport Infrastructure Authority and RMIT Professor Ron Wakefield.

How does the book, Integrating Work Health and Safety into Construction Project Management, address this?

The book compiled work undertaken over a 12-year period, addressing work health and safety challenges and identifying improvement strategies that are applicable across the entire life cycle of a construction project.

The research focused on the contribution required of all key construction industry stakeholders, including clients, design professionals, construction contractors, industry employers and unions, and other participants in the broader supply chain.

The over-arching message is that work health and safety considerations need to be better integrated into construction project management practices across all stages and by engaging with all stakeholders.

What is the 'active client' model outlined in the research? 

The active client model was built on a framework developed at RMIT for the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner in 2007 and has been adapted by the Victorian Government’s MTIA in the delivery of their large program of projects.

The model acknowledges the important role that clients can play in setting work health and safety performance expectations, selecting contractors with appropriate health and safety capability and working with them to ensure that work health and safety are well managed across the program of work.

In particular, the model enables the sharing of lessons between contractors working on different parts of the transport infrastructure construction program.

This is a departure from traditional client behaviour, in which workers’ health and safety was treated exclusively as a matter for contractors, with little involvement or input from the client.

What can other major infrastructure projects learn from the examples in the book?

The book contains important lessons for clients, design professionals, construction organization, project managers and others about how to embed work health and safety in management activities across the entire life cycle.

It also incorporates a detailed analysis of the factors impacting ‘safety in design’ processes in the construction industry and provides recommendations for how best to eliminate or reduce work health and safety risks at the design stage of construction projects.

There is also a tool that can be used by construction organisations to understand the extent to which their culture is likely to enable or impede work health and safety performance.


Story: Grace Taylor

03 December 2019


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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.