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What is considered high risk work?

The terms ‘high risk work’ and ‘high risk construction work’ are often used interchangeably but have different meanings and requirements.

High risk work (HRW) is any work for which a high-risk work licence is required under workplace health and safety laws.

A HRW licence allows the licence-holder to operate some machinery and to erect alter and dismantle some plant and equipment after receiving an appropriate level of training to do the work safely. 

What types of HRW require a HRW licence?

Typical construction activities for which a HRWL is required include:

  • scaffolding work if a person or object could fall more than 4 metres
  • dogging work
  • rigging work
  • crane operation
  • concrete placing boom operation
  • boom-type elevating work platform operation if the length of the boom is 11 metres or more
  • forklift operation
  • hoist operation 

A HRW licence is also required for some pressure equipment and for reach stackers.  For a full list of the types of HRW that require a HRW licence please contact your local workplace health and safety regulator.

How do I go about obtaining a HRW licence?

You will need to be trained and assessed by a registered training organisation (RTO) for the specific type(s) of HRW that you wish to be licenced for. 

After completing the training you can apply for the licence to your local workplace health and safety regulator. 

What is ‘high risk construction work’ 

High risk construction work (HRCW) is construction work for which a ‘Safe Work Method Statement’ (SWMS) must be prepared.

High risk construction work is defined in WHS regulations as construction work that:

  1. involves a risk of a person falling more than 2 metres (3 metres in South Australia)
  2. involves demolition of an element of a structure that is load-bearing or otherwise related to the physical integrity of the structure
  3. involves, or is likely to involve, the disturbance of asbestos
  4. involves structural alterations or repairs that require temporary support to prevent collapse
  5. is carried out in an area at a workplace in which there is any movement of powered mobile plant
  6. is carried out in or near a confined space
  7. is carried out in or near:
    • a shaft or trench with an excavated depth greater than 1.5 metres
    • a tunnel
  8. involves the use of explosives
  9. is carried out on or near pressurised gas distribution mains or piping
  10. is carried out on or near chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines
  11. is carried out on or near energised electrical installations or services
  12. is carried out in an area that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere
  13. involves tilt-up or precast concrete
  14. is carried out on, in or adjacent to a road, railway, shipping lane or other traffic corridor that is in use by traffic other than pedestrians
  15. is carried out on a telecommunication tower
  16. is carried out in an area at a workplace in which there is any movement of powered mobile plant
  17. is carried out in an area in which there are artificial extremes of temperature
  18. is carried out in or near water or other liquid that involves a risk of drowning or
  19. involves diving work.

Note: Victorian OHS regulations have some slight variations of the above definition of HRCW.

Call to action

To prepare a SWMS for HRCW see HIA Information sheets:

For more information about SWMS and your obligations go to the website of your local workplace health and safety authority and search for safe work method statements.

New South Wales



Western Australia

South Australia

Northern Territory



To find out more, contact HIA's Building Services team.

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