Skip to content


A tunnel is any excavation that is approximately horizontal and starts at the surface or from within another excavation. Tunnelling work is often highly complex and involves the use of a range of engineering and construction techniques, plant and equipment.

There are a number of risks with tunnelling work, including the risk of collapse, contaminated atmospheres (toxic, flammable, etc.), and risks associated with heavy plant or equipment.

There are often a range of activities taking place inside a tunnel that are not directly associated with the boring or tunnelling component. These include building support and other internal structures, installing services, and constructing the surface. Workers carrying out these activities are exposed to a number of additional risks that must be managed, including:

  • noise, which can be amplified in an enclosed space
  • heat stress
  • air quality
  • the movement of vehicles and mobile plant in an enclosed space.

In addition, issues that might usually be straight forward to manage (e.g. pedestrian routes, facilities and amenities) are complicated by the enclosed and limited space in a tunnel construction environment.


The Guide for tunnelling work provides guidance on managing the risks associated with tunnelling work.

Construction work

Excavation work is considered construction work under the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and must be carried out in accordance with the relevant regulations

WHS Regulation 2011, Chapter 6 – Construction Work

Safe work method statements

Safe work method statements are required for all high risk construction work, including any construction work that is carried out in or near a tunnel

WHS Regulation 2011, s291 and s299

Notifiable incidents

The following are defined as dangerous incidents and must be notified to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland:

  • the collapse or failure of an excavation or of any shoring supporting an excavation
  • the inrush of water, mud or gas in workings, in an underground excavation or tunnel
  • the interruption of the main system of ventilation in an underground excavation or tunnel

View additional information about the notification of dangerous incidents, including the notification form

Work Health and Safety Act 2011, s35, s36, s37, s38 and s39