Achieving FSC Accreditation (part 1)
Interested in becoming a Federal Safety Commission (FSC) accredited company and delivering Commonwealth Funded Construction Projects?
READ ON, in this 3 part series we will answer all the common questions we receive and get some added insight from our Managing Partner (and long-time Federal Safety Officer), Ralph Willson.
FSC Background - What's it all about?
Being accredited under the Work Health and Safety Accreditation Scheme (the Scheme) means you are able to tender for significant building and construction jobs involving the Australian Government.
It also signifies to the industry and potential clients that you are have best practice workplace health and safety systems and practices on your sites.
Firstly, this AusSafe Insight does not represent the views of the OFSC so we would encourage you to head over to www.fsc.gov.au to get all up to date application requirements and guidance material. It’s a great resource.
From our perspective, FSC accreditation offers the following key benefits:
- Improved WHS performance – reduced risk, reduction in workplace injury and illness
- Reduction in Workers Compensation premiums
- Builds WHS organisational capability which offers flow on effects with business and project management
- Reputational benefits from demonstrating leading WHS practice
- Associated commercial benefits and further opportunities for Government work
When do I need FSC accreditation?
The Federal Government can fund building projects ‘directly’ (via an Australian Government agency) or ‘indirectly’ (government contributes to a project's total value through a funding agreement, grant or other program).
A head contractor is the entity that manages and controls a building site and must be FSC accredited in order to be contracted to undertake building work that meets Scheme thresholds. The head contractor is usually the appointed Principal Contractor.
What are the Scheme Thresholds?
For directly funded - If the value of the project is $4 million or more, the head contractor needs to be accredited under the Scheme.
For indirectly funded projects that include building work of $4 million or more (including GST) AND
the value of the Australian Government contribution to the project is at least $6 million (including GST) and represents at least 50 per cent of the total construction project; OR
the Australian Government contribution to a project is $10 million (including GST) or more, irrespective of the proportion of Australian Government funding.
If these conditions are met, the head contractor will need to have FSC accreditation.
What is involved in becoming an FSC Accredited company?
Companies must prepare supporting information and formally apply to the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner (OFSC). Your application and subsequent accreditation is based on an Australian Business Number (ABN)/ Australian Company Number (ACN).
You will have to nominate 3 projects suitable for accreditation. The OFSC will review your supplied documentation and where deemed minimum requirements met, will schedule an ‘accreditation audit’ to be performed by a Federal Safety Officer (FSO).
An FSO will perform a 2 day implementation audit which will result in the preparation of an audit report including any non-conformance reports (NCRs). The report and any NCRs are issued by the OFSC.
In most cases, to be successful in meeting the FSC criteria and becoming accredited, a company must ensure no major non-conformances exist (no major NCR’s raised) and only a limited number of minor non-conformances. Where major NCR’s have been issued, a follow up audit is scheduled. The time needed for a company to close out NCR’s is dependent on a number of factors, and the company needs to advise the OFSC of its plan and timeframes for close out.
Follow up audits are then scheduled and will continue until the company can demonstrate it has achieved the FSC standard, including no major non-conformances. A formal accreditation certificate is then issued, including any conditions placed on the accredited company.
How Long Does it take to become Accredited?
We get this question all the time. The answer is, it all depends. Planning and programming is key of course.
The time involved is dependent on your organisation (size and complexity), current WHS management systems, any gaps that need to be addressed, capability and capacity to implement change required and the level of resources and commitment at a project level to ensure effective implementation onsite.
It is rare (but not impossible) for companies to achieve accreditation at their first audit. To achieve this, it requires the right support and excellent site leadership.
It can take many organisations more than 6 months (from a first audit) to achieve accreditation.
Due to potential timelines involved, it is recommended that companied have FSC accreditation (or application process significantly advanced) before tendering for any scheme work that exceeds the threshold. Contracts cannot be executed until FSC accreditation has been achieved.
Look Out for Part 2 and Part 3 over the coming months. Reach out if you just can't wait!