Stage 3 & 4 COVID-19 – Am I allowed to attend my building site?

As of 11:59pm Wednesday 5 August 2020, the Victorian Government has put in place new legal COVID restrictions for construction of critical and essential infrastructure and services in metropolitan Melbourne, until at least 28 September 2020. In wake of the current State of Disaster in Victoria, it is imperative that all builders are aware of the strict requirements in place to ensure workers safety.

Parties to a construction contract found in breach of these regulations can face serious criminal offences and substantial fines it is imperative to be aware of their responsibilities.

Current legal requirements

Effective immediately, all construction sites must: 

  • Have a High Risk COVIDSafe Plan in place that is regularly updated;
  • Issue Worker Permits for all workers on site under new employer obligations;
  • Allow no more than one worker per four square metres of enclosed workspace;
  • Prohibit employees, supervisors and on-site specialists from car-pooling;
  • Limit movement of workers between multiple sites; and
  • Observe enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE) and hygiene measures if working between sites.

Construction site limitations

There is still some confusion as to what is and is not allowed for builders within the current restrictions. What has been made clear is that under the new legal requirements, large construction sites will be limited to a daily maximum of workers equating to 25 per cent of their baseline workforce, and/or five workers. Small scale construction sites must only have five workers plus a supervisor on site at any one time.

A large scale construction site is defined as:

  • More than three storeys high (at completion, excluding basement);
  • A floor size greater than 1,500 m2;
  • Any office or retail fit-out, or;
  • Industrial, large format or retail use.

A small scale construction site is a construction site that does not meet the above criteria.

Those wishing to attend any construction site are limited to three sites a week to slow the spread of the virus. 

It is noted that that safety inspectors who inspect scaffolding, safety rails, guardrails, stair void protection systems, other critical safety equipment/installations are not limited to three sites per week.

Critical state projects 

In addition to the legal requirements outlined above, the Victorian Government has categorised some projects as ‘Critical State Projects‘. These projects will continue at normal workforce levels, while ensuring strict compliance with COVIDSafe Plans.

Home repairs and inspections

For residential premises, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) only critical repairs to residential premises are allowed, where required for emergency or safety.  These repairs should be carried out with a Work Permit and COVIDSafe Plan

There is also some confusion to whether inspections can take place by surveyors, building consultants and etc.

It is likely that if the purpose of the inspection would need to fit the definition of emergency or safety and must be done under the Work Permit and COVIDSafe Plan.

It is important that for owners who live in their own residence or are owner/builders to comply with the laws or they may face significant fines and even criminal charges.

Home owners, builders or inspectors should seek legal advice if they are at all concerned.

Projects outside metropolitan Melbourne

Projects being delivered in regional Victoria can continue subject to Stage 3 ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions. COVIDSafe Plans are advised for all regional Victorian workplaces.

For more information

For more information about what the State of Disaster means for your building project read our blog here.

If you are unsure of your obligations and what restrictions apply to you, or need assistance on preparing relevant COVIDSafe documentation, please do not hesitate to call Daniel Oldham on (03) 9640 0002, or via email info@oclawyers.com.au

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