Shutdown to End as Planned & Shire of Moorabool to Enter Lockdown

Today the Victorian Government confirmed that the shutdown of the construction industry will end on 5 October 2021. More details about this announcement can be found here.

A member alert issued yesterday anticipated much of the announcement today and also provided useful guidance to members about preparing to reopen.

The announcement today is pleasing and will allow our industry to get back to work.  But it is tempered by the realisation that the COVIDSafe restrictions that will apply to residential building work will make this a slow return. The restrictions will have a major impact on the supply of materials and the availability of workers for many weeks. This means that the expectations of clients waiting for work on their homes to commence or be completed will need to be managed by builders to ensure that all parties have realistic expectations. 

Expansion of mandatory vaccination rules

There is a major change to the mandatory vaccination rules. The announcement today indicates that any worker in Victoria on the Authorised Worker List will need to have their first vaccination by 15 October 2021 and a second by 26 November 2021. These requirements and dates to be vaccinated will not apply to construction workers and other workers already subject to other mandatory vaccination rules.

This new rule will have a significant impact on workers in the construction industry who do not work on site but need to be on the Authorised Worker list to not work from home. This means that workers at display homes, colour selection centres and offices may need to be vaccinated. The requirement may apply even if the worker works away from home and only engages with others by virtual means or telephone – such as virtual visits to colour selection centres.

The vaccination rules will also extend into the movement of workers between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria, with any worker travelling between these two regions required to be fully vaccinated (two doses). 

It is possible that construction workers will need to be fully vaccinated by 26 November 2021, if not earlier, to be allowed to continue working at construction sites.  Construction workers who have booked their second dose by 13 November 2021 will be treated as fully vaccinated for the purpose of being allowed to cross the internal border between the restricted area of Melbourne and locked down regional areas and the rest of regional Victoria.

Shire of Moorabool enters lockdown

The Government has also announced a seven day lockdown of the Shire of Moorabool from 11:59 pm tonight. People living and working in Moorabool will be subject to the same restrictions as metropolitan Melbourne but without the curfew.

It is expected this means that the shutdown of construction in Greater Melbourne and other locked down regional areas will apply to Moorabool until Tuesday. It is not clear whether the reopening on construction for 5 October 2021 will apply for this council but we expect it will.

Under lockdown restrictions, residents will only be able to leave home for the five reasons below:

  • authorised work or permitted education;
  • necessary goods and services;
  • caregiving or compassionate reasons (including medical care and getting a COVID-19 test);
  • exercise and outdoor social interaction in limited groups; and
  • getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

COVIDSafe compliance requirements – attestation

Builders who want to reopen their building site will need to provide an attestation (declaration) using an online portal to confirm that they have complied and implemented all COVIDSafe measures required by the public health directions. 

Every site will need to have an up to date vaccination status register available so enforcement officers can confirm that the vaccination status of workers on site has been checked before the worker has attended the site.

The online portal will be available on the Service Victoria website tomorrow.

Workers at construction sites will need to need to have received at least one vaccination dose – or have a medical exception – and carry an authorised worker permit to return to sites next week in metropolitan Melbourne and to attend sites from tomorrow in regional Victoria.

Small-scale construction

There will be minimal changes to the restrictions that applied to small scale construction sites before the shutdown. The main changes are as follows:

  • site supervisors responsible for multiple sites can be the COVID Marshal for those sites. There is no need to employ a separate person to perform this function.
  • construction workers can cross the internal border between the restricted area (Melbourne, Mitchell Shire and City of Latrobe) and regional Victoria if they have been fully vaccinated (two doses).

All other existing requirements will continue to apply.  This includes the site limit of 5 workers plus a supervisor on site and most trades limited to 3 sites per week.

There is no extension of the time allowed to obtain vaccination status information from workers before they may enter a building site.

In managing workers travelling from one side of the internal border (between the restricted area and regional Victoria) to another to attend a building site, the builder will now need to make sure that these workers have provided evidence of being fully vaccinated.

Workers who make deliveries to building sites and need to enter the site will also be subject to the same restrictions as construction workers. That is, they will need to provide vaccination status information to the builder and be fully vaccinated if they need to cross the internal border in either direction.

It has been confirmed that builders may rely on declarations provided by contractors about their worker’s vaccination status. The builder will however still be responsible for ensuring that the vaccination status information about each worker is correct and may need to consider collecting sufficient information from contractors on a regular basis to make sure that the information remains correct. As a bare minimum the builder will need to obtain from all contractors whether each of their workers is fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated, not vaccinated or status not stated, or has a medical exception. It would not be sufficient to rely on a simple “all good” or similar response and privately developed “vaccination documents” will not be sufficient evidence. The new online portal for attestation will assist members in managing this documentation.

Large-scale construction

There will be different changes for large scale construction sites.

Crib or lunchrooms will be allowed to operate if the density quotient of 4m2 is complied with and the ventilation in the room complies with new Health Directions. Otherwise workers at these sites will need to eat outside.

If the crib rooms comply, and all workers on site are fully vaccinated then large-scale sites will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity.  Otherwise these sites will remain at 25% capacity and workers will only need to have a single vaccination dose to work at the site.

Workers at large-scale construction sites will only be allowed to cross the internal border between the restricted area and regional Victoria if they are fully vaccinated or if they have a single dose and take at least 2 COVID tests a week.

Early stage land development sites

These sites are currently subject to a limit of 10 workers per hectare. Sites in the restricted area of metropolitan Melbourne, the Shire of Mitchell and City of Latrobe are currently closed.

These closed sites can reopen on 5 October 2021. These sites will be allowed to operate subject to a limit of 20 workers per hectare if they have crib or lunchrooms compliant with the new Health Directions and all workers have at least a single vaccination dose.

Workers for these sites will only be allowed to cross the internal border between the restricted area and regional Victoria if they are fully vaccinated.

Internal renovations

Despite HIA’s lobbying efforts, unfortunately for our members who work on internal renovations the previous announcement that they will only be allowed to return to work when 80% of the population is fully vaccinated remains. This means that they are unlikely to be able to recommence operating until early to mid-November at the earliest.

Preparation for return to work

There is going to be some allowance for workers who have been at least partially vaccinated to attend building sites before 5 October 2021 to prepare construction sites in the restricted area of metropolitan Melbourne, Shire of Mitchell or City of Latrobe. While workers can attend construction sites outside this restricted area without a jab on or before 2 October 2021 any worker attending a construction site in the restricted area for preparatory work must have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The preparatory work before 5 October 2021 will be allowed for:

  • supplies of materials to be receive at a construction site;
  • safety measures to be installed or site re-inductions to be conducted; or
  • crib rooms to be set up to comply with new Health Directions.

Yesterday’s member alert provided guidance for members in relation to the steps you should be taking now in your business to prepare for the reopening next week.

HIA’s Making space on site resources will include a new COVIDSafe Plan, a new site sign and a new QR code for site inductions. Members will receive further notice when these are available.

Enforcement

The Government has stated that there will be zero tolerance and that a strict enforcement of the public health directions will recommence once the shutdown is over. It is expected that building sites with no or little regard for these directions who are detected committing significant or repeat breaches will be subjected to prohibition notices under the OHS Act and shut down.

Examples of non-compliance with public health directions that could lead to a shutdown of an individual site include:

  • No attestation has been prepared to confirm that the builder is complying with the public health directions.
  • No Service Victoria QR codes displayed for workers and visitors to the site to use.  
  • No COVID Marshal on site or able to be easily contacted.
  • No easy access to evidence that the vaccination status for workers on site has been checked before they attended site.
  • Face masks not being worn by workers at the site.
  • Workers not carrying authorised worker permits.
  • No cleaning records.

These instances of non-compliance are easy to detect if an enforcement officer attends the site.

HIA will continue to provide information to its members as it becomes available.

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