The new Stage 4 restrictions bring not only widespread changes to the industry over the 6 week lock-down period, but business groups estimate a drop of over a billion dollars to the state’s revenue will also result.
As part of the measures to slow the spread of the virus, the new restrictions mean builders are unable to operate at the same levels they had during stage 3, dramatically reducing turnover.
Some builders have closed their doors, where it’s just not viable to continue operating, having far-reaching consequences for supply chain companies, their employees and obviously trades who will need to survive on either reduced, or little to no work.
Let’s hope when restrictions are eased next month we can quickly lift productivity levels, minimising the impact to the industry and the economy.
What are the Stage 4 restrictions for construction sites?
From 1:59 am on 8 August, 2020 the new conditions must be adopted by all working construction sites in Melbourne.
All sites must:
- Have a High Risk COVIDSafe Plan in place that is updated regularly. Where
practical COVIDSafe Plans should be designed with the input of employees and
- Permit not more than one worker per four square metres of enclosed
All employees, supervisors and on-site specialists will:
- be prohibited from car-pooling to or from work.
- be required to notify their employer if they share accommodation with a person
working at another high-risk workplace.
- required to limit any movement between multiple sites and observe enhanced
Personal Protection Equipment and hygiene measures if they are working
Small-scale construction sites must:
- reduce the number of workers on-site to 5 people, plus a supervisor, at any
- limit the movement of workers between different sites wherever possible, and
only with the appropriate guidance.
- supervisors may move between sites and specialist contractors are permitted to
move between up to sites per week, observing enhanced COVIDSafe practices.
Large-scale construction sites must:
- be limited to a daily maximum of workers at the site calculated as the higher
- 25% of their baseline workforce; and
- 5 workers.
All workers count towards this applicable daily worker limit, with the exception of workers who are specifically dedicated to overseeing COVIDSafe functions in the workplace.
Baseline of the workforce is the average daily number of workers who are on site across the project lifecycle, as derived from the project’s resourcing plan, as at July 31 2020. The resourcing plan and calculation are subject to an audit. Project lifecycle starts from the date of on-site mobilisation and ends at the handover.
- Workers movement between different sites will be limited. Specialist
contractors who need to move between sites should visit no more than 3 sites per week. All workers who move between multiple sites must observe enhanced hygiene and PPE measures.
Each early stage residential land development site must:
- limit the movement of workers between different sites wherever possible, and
then only with appropriate guidance.
- follow density restrictions of not more than ten workers per hectare.
- All workers count in the density restrictions.
Do the restrictions apply to all construction sites?
Every construction site must have a High Risk COVIDSafe Plan
and must follow density restrictions, with no more than one worker per 4 square metres in enclosed spaces.
Additional restrictions will apply to:
- Workers who visit multiple sites.
- Early stage residential land-development sites.
- Smaller scale construction sites.
- Larger scale construction sites.
What defines a large scale construction site?
A construction site is considered large scale under these guidelines if it is:
- Permitted to be at completion, more than 3 storeys high (excluding the basement), or
- Bigger than 1,500m2 floor size or
- An office or retail fit-out, or
- Industrial, or large format, or for retail use
What defines an early stage residential land development project?
An early stage residential land development project comprises all the civil works undertaken in open air, large greenfield sites associated with, and preparatory to, the construction of multiple individual residential dwellings on the site (this includes site remediation and site preparation works, construction of any utilities, and construction of the roads, bridges, or stormwater/flood management works and trunk infrastructure).
Once subdivision is under way, construction of that dwelling, on that part of the site, is regarded as a small scale construction project. For a large scale residential development (e.g. a retirement village) with a single entity responsible for the construction – once dwellings have been commenced, this will be considered large scale construction.
What is considered to be a small scale construction site?
A small scale construction site is a site which does not meet the above definition of a large scale construction site.
What is defined as ‘construction of critical and essential infrastructure’?
The construction of critical and essential infrastructure is NOT subject to business operating reductions. It means:
- the construction or maintenance (including civil works or building activities) of essential and critical infrastructure that is urgently needed for sustaining human health, safety and wellbeing, regardless of whether those activities are privately or publicly funded:
- any activity prescribed by government from time to time as “State Critical Infrastructure Projects”;
- construction and maintenance for the purpose of national security or defence; and
- any activities deemed by Government to have satisfied the test in (a) and are endorsed by the Chief Health Officer on a case by case basis.
It is expected very few activities will meet the above tests. Project proponents may contact COVID-19Team@ecodev.vic.gov.au to apply for a determination from the Chief Health Officer.
What are the rules for civil construction?
All civil works and all building and construction activity (whether privately or publicly funded) are subject to the large scale, small scale, or early stage residential land development project restrictions and tests, unless the activities:
- constitute the construction of critical and essential infrastructure (see above); or
- constitute critical repair to any premises required for emergency and safety (as described in the Stage 4 Restrictions “Permitted Work Premises” published on the DHHS website.
Are restrictions on construction the same in both regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne?
No. Further restrictions do apply on all sites in metropolitan areas, under Stage 4 restrictions.
What are the requirements for wearing personal protective equipment by workers on site?
Workers must wear required personal protective equipment at all times. Specialist contractors who move between sites will require enhanced PPE and hygiene measures, and the workers are restricted to attending just one site on any given day.
The Victorian Government is coordinating with industry to ensure worksites have the most appropriate personal protective equipment for every setting.
Industry will be required to have this personal protective equipment and checks will be conducted to make sure they do. If businesses are struggling to get the appropriate personal protective equipment they need, Government is available for advice and support.
Reduced operations requirement
What level of operation is permitted for large-scale construction sites?
Any worksite must not exceed a daily maximum of workers present calculated as the greater of:
- 25% of their baseline site workforce (calculated below); and
- 5 workers.
- All workers count towards this applicable daily worker limit with the exception of those specifically dedicated to overseeing COVIDSafe functions in that workplace.
How is ‘baseline site workforce’ defined for a large scale construction site?
The baseline workforce is the average daily number of workers on the site across the lifecycle of the project, derived from the project’s resourcing plan as of July 31 2020.
The resourcing plan and calculations are subject to an audit.
Project lifecycle commences from the first date of on-site mobilisation and it ends at handover.
What is the definition of a worker?
Worker refers to a person working on a site inclusive of, but not limited to, owners, managers, employees, contractors, workers on labour hire, or security.
It doesn’t include workers who are specifically dedicated to overseeing COVIDSafe functions in the workplace e.g. workers engaged in additional cleaning of high-touch points or who are overseeing the implementation of COVIDSafe practices.
Workers do not include deliveries and suppliers (e.g. concrete testers or similar) only present onsite for a short period. These brief visitors do not count towards the daily worker limits.
What is the definition of specialist contractor?
- Mobile Cranes – Operators and dogman
- Tile layers
- Gold Class riggers
- Vertical access Riggers
- Precast installers
- Steel fixers
- Post Tensioners
- Truck Drivers
- Floor layers
- Internal Glaziers
- Solar installers
- Security system installers
- Carpet layer
- Sprinkler fitters
What about architects, surveyors, engineers, building inspectors and auditors?
Workers providing architecture, surveying, engineering, building inspection or compliance services or other statutory function must work from their home where possible.
When these people attend sites for inspection or safety purposes, they are counted as workers. Workers in this category who move between sites should visit no more than 3 times a week, except when those visits are required in order to meet a minimum statutory obligation, or requirement.
What about specialists providing safety services?
Specialists who install critical OHS equipment such as scaffolding, guardrails, safety rails, stair void protection systems, or other critical safety equipment/installations, and people who conduct safety inspections and training talks, are not limited to 3 sites per week.
What is the documentation required?
Specified worksite operators are required to declare in an attachment to their COVIDSafe Plan:
- the location and nature of activities undertaken at sites intending to continue
under restricted operations;
- (if applicable) baseline workforce levels calculated for each site, with methodology and time period, used to establish those levels;
- the restricted workforce levels that are proposed for each site during the restriction period, calculated to comply with the order; and
- that the operator retains and agrees to make available for inspection, thebusiness records and calculations used to establish the required restricted workforce levels, and to demonstrate compliance with those restricted workforce levels, through the Stage 4 restriction period.
Compliance and enforcement
The Government is introducing a specific worksite reporting regime, supported by independent compliance reviews, with site inspections. This process is being established to make sure the specified worksites comply with the intent of the order, and can provide independently verified evidence of compliance during and after the restriction period.
What documentation do I need to retain?
The COVIDSafe Plan and attachment (specified above) must be retained, and available for inspection upon request. Otherwise it will not be submitted to, or endorsed by the Victorian Government.
Operators are also required to retain and make available for inspection, evidence of compliance with the daily workforce limits, which includes roster, time and attendance, payroll and other work site attendance records.
Who will enforce these restrictions?
Authorised officers will undertake site inspections for workplaces that are subject to reduced operation requirements, to ensure that they comply to new regulations and have a complete High Risk COVIDSafe Plan.
How will compliance be monitored?
Site operators are to be randomly selected for independent compliance reviews and asked to demonstrate their compliance with the order.
To facilitate these compliance reviews, which will take place both during and after the Stage 4 restriction period, operators are required to retain and produce for inspection site rosters, time and attendance data, payroll data and other site attendance records as requested.
The compliance reviews will be conducted by independent agents, who are appointed by the Victorian Government for this purpose.
Frequently asked questions:
Can solar installations be continued?
Solar panels are not permitted to be installed on residential properties under the Stage 4 restrictions. But critical repairs can be done where required – in an emergency, or for safety reasons.
Solar panels are able to be installed at construction sites, including residential renovations where the home is completely vacated, provided the specialist contractors observe the worksite’s COVIDSafe Plan and conform to the daily workforce caps.
Can renovations proceed?
Trades people and builders can only visit your home for renovations if the property is fully vacated with no one staying there during the period of Stage 4 restrictions.
Granted the property is vacated, renovations can proceed in line with the restrictions for residential construction.
If people are still living at the property, then builders and trades people can only make emergency repairs.