Closure of all building sites in metropolitan Melbourne from midnight tonight

The Victorian Government has reached a decision late today that from 11:59pm tonight it will shut down all building sites in metropolitan Melbourne and the municipalities currently in lockdown being Geelong, Mitchell, Surf Coast and Ballarat.

HIA attended a briefing with the Treasurer, Ministers Pakula and Allen, and the Public Health Team tonight where this decision was announced.

The legislation to enact this shutdown will be made by midnight tonight.

The Government has said this action has been taken in response to what it has described as widespread non-compliance in the industry.

HIA has raised the difficulty of this enormous task for the approximately 30,000 small scale residential building projects currently under construction, but the Government will proceed with the closure for all construction sites in the regions impacted.

How long will the shutdown go for?

The shutdown is planned for a 2 week fixed period ending on 5 October 2021.

If the regional municipalities come out of lockdowns sooner than 5 October 2021 construction sites in these areas may be able to reopen earlier.

What else do we know at this stage?

Sites will need to be secured and made safe as quickly as possible. There will be exemptions to allow for this to occur. The details of this will be outlined in the legal directions.

Some emergency repair works will be allowed during the shutdown with details to follow when available.

There is no indication that the existing ban on travel for construction workers between regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne, including the locked down municipalities, will be lifted.

It is also understood that for regional Victorian construction workers the mandatory vaccination requirements will continue to apply for anyone involved in essential work to make sites safe and secure as previously announced.

HIA assumes the definition of a construction site will be broad and include all types of large and small building sites and home renovations. Again this is to be confirmed tomorrow when the legal directions are published.

HIA will provide members with a detailed update tomorrow when more information is available.

HIA site shut down checklist

HIA’s Securing a residential buidling site and building work information sheet sets out a number of actions that builders should take as quickly as possible to make sites safe and secure including:

  • ensure the building structure is safe and secure
  • remove any fuel and hazardous chemicals
  • turn off power where possible or implemented measures to prevent access to temporary electrical switchboards
  • close off any height access points and removed access to ladders and scaffolds
  • secure voids, filled in or secured trenches and excavations
  • consider how to reduce risks associated with stored construction materials
  • clean up debris to reduce weather creating windblown waste or hazards
  • install or repaired site fencing and locks
  • install or updated existing site sign with current contact phone numbers
  • made arrangements to return to the supplier or dismantle any plant or equipment that is not required during the shutdown
  • establish a regular site inspections routine to monitor site safety and security
  • check your public liability and contract works insurance policy for how the site is protected when closed
  • notified your home warranty insurance provider that work has ceased
  • communicated with your customer about the next steps that you will take to make the building site safe while it is closed
  • communicate with your customer about the contract arrangements, invoices and payments?
  • issue a payment claim to the home owner for the most recent payment stage (where permitted under the contract)
  • contact all suppliers to defer deliveries to site or made arrangements for any expected deliveries to be stored safely either on site or elsewhere during the shutdown.

Managing clients and contracts during the shutdown

There are a range of matters beyond the building site that members will also need to manage while the sites are shutdown. These relate to the client, any employees, insurance and finance matters.

HIA’s information sheet Site Shutdown – Managing clients and contracts outlines a range of steps to assist you in understanding what these issues are and the best way to deal with a very complex situation.

Wage support for employees

For members or employees of members financially impacted by the shutdown, you may be eligible for the federal or state government wage support under the National Disaster Payments arrangements. The payments are based on a reduction in the number of hours worked being reduced and there are two tiers for the payments. HIA has information available online.

More information tomorrow

Given the incredibly short notice on this announcement, HIA will need to review the final details of the legal requirements when released to understand the full implications of the shutdown. While members will have untold numbers of questions, it would be appreciated that members understand our team will bring together new FAQs as quickly as possible. 

HIA will continue to engage with the Government to ensure that this shutdown is limited in timeframe by demonstrating that our industry can continue to work in a COVID safe way. This includes managing the Govenment’s new requirements for mandatory vaccination for all construction workers.

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