Summary Of National Legislation


Most Australian utility legislation is state-based. Some federal Acts and Regulations, however, apply nationally and are relevant to DBYD activities. This legislation governs conduct across all of Australia at all times, regardless of which state one is in. The four key pieces of federal legislation are:

  1. Work Health and Safety Act 2011
  2. Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011
  3. Criminal Code Act 1995
  4. Telecommunications Act 1997

For ease of reference, a short summary of each is provided below.


The Telecommunications Act governs the activities of telecommunications service providers (‘telecoms’) in Australia. It is important to remember that although this is a national Act, work on telecommunications assets may also come under the jurisdiction of state legislation such as electricity Acts and regulations.

Main points of relevance:

• Carrier powers: carriers have power to enter land for the inspection, installation and maintenance of telecommunications assets. In order to do so, carriers must comply with certain conditions, including doing as little damage to land as possible, restoring the land and giving notice to the owner of the land.

• Conditions for activities on telecoms assets: When carrying out works on telecommunications assets, carrier representatives have the following obligations:

– To do as little damage as practicable

– To restore land

– To exercise good management practices (protection and safety, minimal interference, environmental protection)

• To make effort to enter into agreements with public utilities (for example, about how the carrier plans to engage in excavation activities)

• To comply with industry standards

• Notice requirement: if the carrier plans to perform work that will alter a road, bridge, water/sewerage/gas pipe, or electricity wire, it must provide the person responsible for that asset written notice at least 10 business days in advance.

• Exemption from State and Territory laws: in broad terms, activities carried out by a carrier are exempt from local state and territory laws. This means that carriers’ conduct is governed only by the national Telecommunications Act, which is often more favourable to carriers’ purposes than local state and territory laws.


The national Criminal Code Act contains a large array of criminal offence provisions, setting out federal crimes and the punishments applicable should the provisions be breached.

Relevantly for DBYD purposes, the Act makes it a crime to interfere with telecommunications assets in the ways described below.

Main points of relevance:

• s 474.6 Interference with facilities: If a person tampers with or interferes with a facility owned or operated by a carrier, the penalty is one year in prison. If the tampering/interference hinders the normal operation of the carriage service, the penalty increases to two years’ imprisonment.

• s 474.7 Modification etc. of a telecommunications device identifier: If a person modifies or interferes with a telecommunications device identifier, this is an offence and the penalty is two years’ imprisonment.


This Act is the overriding piece of legislation for occupational health and safety in Australia. It sets out model laws designed to govern conduct in Australian workplaces. The national Act was created with the intention that state parliaments would pass laws bringing it into force at the state level, in order to create uniform legislation Australia-wide. A single national Act is insufficient, as each state has its own regulator for WHS matters (for example, WorkSafe Victoria.

Main points of relevance:

• Notifiable incidents: under the Act, the regulator must be notified immediately after a notifiable incident occurs. This includes the death of a person, a serious illness or injury, or a ‘dangerous incident’.

• Preservation of incident sites: if a notifiable incident occurs, the site of the incident must be preserved by the site manager until an inspector arrives.


In general terms, the Regulations serve as a detailed guide to the overarching provisions of the Act. They also contain more relevant information for excavation and asset protection purposes. To determine whether these particular provisions apply to a given site, the definitions in regulation 5 should be checked.

The Regulations set out general requirements for general risk and workplace management, which apply across a wide array of industries. Chapter 4 deals with ‘hazardous work’, which includes work in confined spaces, high risk and electrical work. Chapter 6 regulates ‘construction work’, which includes high risk construction work and excavation work. There are also duties for safe work method statements and general construction induction training.

Main points of relevance:

• Definitions: the Regulations define key terms such as ‘essential services’, ‘excavation’ and ‘excavation work’.

• Hazardous work: there are obligations involved with work in confined spaces, as well as the requirement to be licensed for ‘high risk work’ (see Part 4.5). Electrical work is regulated in Part 4.7, which also covers energised electrical work such as on overhead and underground power lines.

• Construction work: the key aspects of Chapter 6 concern high risk construction work and excavation work.

– High risk construction work: this includes work in excavated shafts, work on telecommunications towers and on or near gas distribution pipelines, electrical installations, water and/or roads.

• Excavation work: where excavation work is being carried out, the person who manages or controls the workplace must obtain current underground essential services information. Typically, this requirement is met by making a Dial Before You Dig enquiry. This information must then be provided to anyone carrying out the excavation work (for example, sub-contractors). All parties must then have regard to the information. The penalty for breaching any of these requirements is $6,000 for individuals and $30,000 for body corporates, per breach. This information must be made available for inspection during the excavation work. If a notifiable incident occurs, the information must be available for two years after the incident.

• Trench excavation: if a trench is dug to a depth of 1.5 metres or more, the work area must be kept secured from unauthorised access. In addition, the sides of the trench must be supported through either shoring, shielding, benching or battering techniques. The penalty for breaching either of these requirements is $6,000 for individuals and $30,000 for body corporates.

• Safe work method statements: these must be provided and maintained for high risk construction work.

• General construction induction training: all site workers must have completed a form of construction induction training. The ‘White Card’ qualification is a form of this training.

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