Bowens - The Builders Choice

Regional Lockdown Changes and Responding to Today’s Earthquake

Today the Victorian Government announced that from 11:59pm tonight, 22 September, the lockdown in the City of Ballarart and in Point Lonsdale will be lifted.

Members will also be aware of the earthquake and aftershocks that occurred this morning. Information on the approach you should take to ensure buildings and building work are secure and safe in the current COVID environment is provided below.

Lockdown ends for City of Ballarat and Point Lonsdale

From midnight tonight, the City of Ballarat and Point Lonsdale will move to the COVIDSafe settings in place prior to the lockdown. This means that residents:

  • will no longer be bound by the five permitted reasons to leave home, and
  • can travel throughout regional Victoria (other than the restricted areas of Geelong, Mitchell Shire and Surf Coast).

HIA expects that the shutdown of the construction sites in the City of Ballarat will be also be lifted at midnight tonight. The legal instrument to confirm this will not be available until late tonight. HIA will provide further information tomorrow should this not be the case.

Travel between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria

Members are reminded of the current restrictions on travelling across Victoria including that:

  • residents are only permitted to travel to Melbourne in limited circumstances, such as for authorised work, permitted education, care and compassionate reasons  and to obtain necessary goods and services. 
  • construction workers are not be permitted to travel from regional Victoria (now including Ballarat) into metropolitan Melbourne including the other three restricted local government areas (and vise versa) to carry out building works.

Impact of the earthquake on residential building sites and existing buildings

There are reports of some structural damage on construction sites across Melbourne. While the current shutdown of construction sites in metropolitan Melbourne is in place, there is a continuing obligation for builders to ensure their building sites remain safe and secure.  This remains the case despite some misunderstandings and an inconsistent enforcement approach.

The Victorian Building Authority has issued guidance to the building industry as follows:

“Under current restrictions, [building] practitioners can attend a site to respond to an emergency or perform urgent and essential work to protect health and safety.”

It is appropriate to undertaken any urgent and essential work to protect the health and safety of workers or members of the public. Inspecting all work sites that may have been impacted for structural integrity is also appropriate.

HIA suggests where applicable members:

  • do a walk around on any partially completed wall or roof frames, or parts to the structure to ensure fixings haven’t been loosened or became distorted;
  • check on connections of frames to footings/base to ensure it hasn’t shifted or weakened;
  • check for obvious damage to the structure such as cracks in walls and foundations;
  • check that the integrity of temporary bracing, props and formwork has not been undermined;
  • check for things that could have been dislodged such as materials stored at height and trench walls for dislodged or about to be dislodged material;
  • arrange for the scaffold supplier or a licenced scaffolder to inspect any scaffolds on site;
  • for any partially damaged walls, apply care in inspecting and making safe as may need inspection by structural engineer to gauge extent of damage; and
  • check to ensure no damaged plumbing pipes both sanitary and supply and at point of connection to building.

This guidance is also applicable to checking damage on any newly built or existing older buildings. Further guidance to assist members inspect and respond to the earthquake will be available tomorrow.

Reminder – Mandatory vaccinations

Members will be now be aware that by 24 September, an operator of a building and construction site must request workers provide information and evidence of their COVID-19 vaccination status. More information on the mandatory vaccination requirements for the construction industry is available in Saturday’s member alert.

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