To: CCF Victoria staff, members and stakeholders.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update – From the CEO Desk.
Following the release of the Construction Sector Guidelines, 7 August, which now appears on the Business Victoria website https://www.business.vic.gov.au/disputes-disasters-and-succession-planning/covid-safe-business/construction-sector-guidance, we have continued to field many of your calls and emails, together with our Government engagement. We have progressively placed the issues you have raised with us for resolution through both the Building & Construction Industry Working Group and the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DPJR), which is the responsible body and agency co-ordinating the Government’s response in the development of these Guidelines for our industry.
As you can appreciate, there have been many questions submitted in seeking further clarity to the Guidelines. Following the Industry Working Group meeting last night, there are currently 69 questions that have been tabled, with the responses to these awaiting final sign off. Q&A’s will now be placed progressively on the Business Victoria website and I encourage all CCF members to refer to this website via the above link as your key source of information. This will include regular updates on Q&A’s, with designated links to other relevant Government websites.
The following update is provided to CCF members based on information I have received, your feedback and our representations / briefings with Government.
Number of Covid-19 cases in Victoria
|On Monday, 10 August 2020, there were 331 new positive cases reported in Victoria, slightly up from 322 on Sunday. Yesterday, there were 3 new cases in the Building and Construction Industry and an unreported entry for likely 2 positive cases at a Building & Construction project in Camberwell from last week. The extensive Incolink/APC testing program has conducted over 15,800 tests at 204 onsite clinics with the remainder of this week’s program: |
Wed 12 Aug: Clinic 1 & 2: C-19 Weskton Precast – Melton & Sunshine
Thurs 13 Aug: Clinic 1: C-19 Probuild – West Side Place Clinic 2: COVID-19 Probuild – Vic Uni
Fri 14 Aug: Clinic 1: COVID-19 Built – 99 Franklin Clinic 2: COVID-19 Probuild – ANZ
Worksite Inspections by Victoria Police.
Under current COVID-19 restrictions, the Victoria Police are actively visiting construction worksites and enforcing stage 4 restrictions under the Construction Sector Guidelines. We have had an incident reported today, where a contractor was instructed by the police for the mobile plant operator to wear his “Face Mask” despite having conducted appropriate risk assessment, while the single plant operator was in an enclosed cabin.
On 29 July 2020, an extraordinary meeting of WorkSafe’s Foundation for Safety Victoria (FSV) was convened with FSV members to discuss industry concerns that mandatory face coverings may give rise to unacceptable occupational health and safety (OHS) risks for some construction tasks/activities.
(# WorkSafe’s FSV Committee comprises the regulator, employer groups and union representatives, including CCF Victoria’s HSEQ Officer, Trevor Derham, and myself)
The Victorian Chief Health Officer (CHO) has directed that all persons over 12 years old living in areas under coronavirus (COVD-19) Stage 3 “Stay at Home Restrictions” wear cloth or surgical face masks or face coverings outside of their home from 11.59pm on 22 July 2020. The Chief Health Officer has directed that employers must take reasonable steps to ensure that employees wear a face covering at all times when working at the employer’s premises. # you will note that since this date, stage 4 restrictions are now in place and the Construction Sector Guidelines released.
Where the work or task requires the use of specific types of face coverings in the workplace, these must be provided by the employer. Where an employee seeks to provide and use their own face covering at work, an employer must ensure that it is meeting its obligations under the OHS Act which includes, so far as is reasonably practicable, providing and maintaining a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This includes undertaking a risk assessment, ensuring that the face covering is safe and suitable for the workplace and work activities being performed, providing policies and procedures in relation to the use of face coverings in the workplace and that the employee or independent contractor has received information, instruction and training in the safe use of face masks within the workplace.
In the days preceding the meeting, FSV members were invited to consider such tasks and what mitigations may be appropriate in order to ensure broadest possible compliance with the directives whilst maintaining safety.
The FSV meeting discussed the mandatory CHO directives, including some of the exemptions for specified circumstances, e.g. particular health conditions. Any departure from the CHO’s directives on the basis of OHS concerns must be justified though a risk assessment. Specific reference to tasks where face coverings would be appropriate. I refer you to the following consensus and reported minutes relating to the wearing of Face Masks for mobile plant operations:
Tasks where face coverings would be appropriate
Crane/Plant operation where the crane or plant cabin has more than one person in the cabin, or the cabin is open, a face mask would be appropriate. However, where the cabin is an enclosed and the cabin is only entered by a single operator a face covering may not be required. In those circumstances an approved face covering must be on hand and worn when opening window to speak to somebody or exiting the cabin and the cabin would need to be sanitised at conclusion of the operators shift or if there is a change of operators.
I have tabled this issue yesterday with both WorkSafe and DJPR for clarification on the instructions issued to the Victoria Police from the relevant regulatory authority (WorkSafe). This may appear in the Q&A’s on the Business Victoria website, but I will keep members abreast of developments.
Exemptions sought for “Critical & Essential” Infrastructure Projects.
I have continued to receive a number of calls from you regarding the classification of projects as “critical infrastructure” projects. While my previous CEO update advised that contractors engaged in State Critical” projects have been advised, the process is not as transparent for local government or water authority projects. I envisage this issue will be addressed though the Q&A’s.
I remind all members that the criteria for exemption centres on 4 distinct categories, ie:
- construction or maintenance (including civil works and building activities) of critical and essential infrastructure that is urgently required for the purposes of sustaining human health, safety and wellbeing, regardless of whether those activities are privately or publicly funded;
- activities prescribed by government from time to time as “State Critical Infrastructure Projects”;
- construction and maintenance for the purposes of national security and defence; and
- activities that are deemed by Government to have satisfied the test in (a) and endorsed by the Chief Health Officer on a case by case basis.
I am aware of only 3 major infrastructure projects that has received CHO approval under this critical and essential classification to date. The key objective being sought is to achieve a reduction in the numbers of workers on site, wherever possible, to contribute to the global reduction in movements. Any of you seeking an exemption will need to demonstrate that the project is critical and essential infrastructure, urgently required and required for the purposes of sustaining human health, safety and wellbeing. You will need to submit information on the project and a rationale against those categories to COVID-19Team@ecodev.vic.gov.au
Until my next update …. Keep well – keep safe.
CEO, CCF Victoria