To: CCF Victoria staff, members and stakeholders.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update – From the CEO desk.
It has only been just over 24 hours since my last update. Such is the acceleration of actions being undertaken by Government and relevant authorities to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus and support businesses through these challenging times. Our commitment at CCF, is to keep you abreast of the latest information and decisions being made, that will impact on you and your business operations.
There were 374 new positive cases reported in Victoria yesterday (the second highest daily total), up from 275 on Sunday. In the media conference today, the Chief Health Officer observed that these daily numbers were a ‘rollercoaster’ and he is looking for signs of some stability in them to assess the need for further restrictions.
One further positive case was reported in the vertical construction industry today – a façade worker on a project in Swanston St (CBD). The total number of positive cases in the Building & Construction Industry since 20 March, stands at 49.
It has been quite a while since I have provided you with a list of daily calls received at the COVID-19 Support Line and below are the details of calls received yesterday, together with the metrics and call analysis, for your reference.
For information about coronavirus, or to find your nearest testing site, visit www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au or call 1800 675 398.
Face Masks (Update)
Further to yesterday’s preliminary information about the DHHS direction on the wearing of Face Masks (effective 11.59pm Wed 22 July), the Building & Construction Industry Taskforce met last night to consider the ramifications of its implementation and enforcement.
Today, the DHHS website has now been updated to outline the requirements for wearing a face covering whenever you leave your home, unless an exemption applies. A face covering needs to cover both your nose and mouth. It could be a face mask or shield. A full set of Questions and Answers is provided on the DHHS website
A specific section for the construction industry is reproduced below to address a key specific question we are currently being asked by CCF members, ie:
Q. Do construction workers have to wear a face covering?
A. Yes. Construction workers will have to wear a face covering unless they meet any of the criteria for exception such as a medical condition or if wearing a face covering creates a risk to the person related to their work, as determined through OH&S guidelines.
This now places an obligation on safety committees/managers to assess where and when an exemption may apply, under the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations. In the meantime, get prepared by conducting a review of your typical tasks and control measures . . . . and check your stock of Face Masks.
Building & Construction Industry Task Force – Contingency planning in the event of site/industry closure
The increased transmission of the Coronavirus in recent weeks has led to a range of questions as to what can be expected for the Building and Construction Industry should Stage 4 restrictions be declared. Also there has been a number of questions about what ‘exemptions’ might apply if a site and/or the industry is shutdown.
This issue was discussed at the Government’s Building and Construction Industry Task Force meeting last night. While there are no prescribed conditions should a Stage 4 be declared in Victoria, nor have these been clearly defined, actions taken will be dependent upon a range of factors which might vary the conditions and restrictions under which a Stage 4 could be executed. The only indicator we have at this time is what has happened in other countries, ie: New Zealand, where for Stage 4 the industry was effectively shut down save for essential services, which was very restricted. We do not know if this will be the case here, or not.
At this point in time, there appears to be no imminent prospect of Stage 4 being declared and we can expect some notice should this be likely to be introduced. That said, we have already seen one long term worksite closures in Victoria due to COVID -19. If the transmissions continue to increase, we must be prepared. While the Industry Guidelines provide some assistance in this regard, there are questions as to the capacity to arrange for ‘exemptions’ in order to make the site safe, secure, whether essential, or emergency works can be completed and under what conditions.
It is expected that a “common sense” approach would be adopted. However, we must continue to be pro-active as an industry to identify likely scenarios for this to be applied on site specific projects. It would be helpful to the Task Force if the industry could now identify specific examples of where exemptions might become necessary in the event of a shutdown or closure of a site/project such that some preparation and a process to streamline any requests that arise could be effected. Many will have already undertaken contingency planning for this purpose.
- Action: I have asked our HSEQ Officer, Trevor Derham, to consolidate any examples or suggestions you may experience for dealing with an imminent or actual proposed shutdown (site or industry), where a principal contractor considers for safety or emergency reasons some activity needs to be completed beyond the constraints of a particular shutdown/closure event. In all cases, it will be necessary to consult with HSRs, and to contact WorkSafe to seek specific exemptions, should this be the case. There will be a range of scenarios where some emergency/essential/safety activities may need to continue in the event of a site or wider closure/shutdown – being prescriptive will be difficult. It would be appreciated if principle contractors, or sub-contractors, could forward to Trevor any such examples by cob Wednesday, 22 July. These will be consolidated and forwarded to the Industry Liaison Officer for tabling at the Task Force meeting when it meets again this Friday. firstname.lastname@example.org
WorkSafe to increase inspections of construction worksites.
In personal correspondence I received from WorkSafe this morning, while acknowledging the important work the construction industry is doing to manage the risk of infection in the workplace, they have highlighted the “pressing need” for behaviours in Victoria’s workplaces in accordance with guidelines issued to respond to the COVID-19 threat.
WorkSafe is increasing their inter-agency work with Victoria Police and the DHHS and will continue to proactively visit workplaces, and respond to DHHS notifications of positive cases, to ensure adequate controls are in place to minimise the risk of infection. You are encouraged to continue to refer workplaces to their industry guidelines, including the checklist recently published, that can help ensure a system of work is in place. https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/managing-risk-covid-19-exposure-construction-industry
I encourage you to read these guidelines in conjunction with the version 5 release of guidelines endorsed by the Building & Construction Industry Working Group. A copy of the new version 5. COVID -19 Guidelines, together with an explanatory note is available for your use via the attached links and the CCF website.
JobKeeper Payment Scheme Amended & Extended.
Today, the Federal Government announced proposed changes to JobKeeper including an extension through to 28 March 2021.
It should be noted that these changes do not impact JobKeeper payments until after 28 September 2020. Key announcements and changes made today:
- From 20 July, changes to eligibility for JobKeeper payments will affect approved providers of child care services, see JobKeeper key dates.
- The JKP scheme will be extended until 28 March 2021
- turnover tests will be introduced after 28 September to determine eligibility
- tiered payments for eligible staff, ie:
from 28 September to 3 January 2021 and
from 4 January to 28 March 2021.
You can enrol for the JobKeeper Payment at any time until the program closes if your circumstances have changed. You can check on eligibility at Enrol for JobKeeper. The ATO have compliance activities underway to make sure JobKeeper payments are getting to eligible employers. For more details see Keeping JobKeeper payment fair. For more details, on today’s announcements, check out the ATO website. https://www.ato.gov.au/general/jobkeeper-payment/
Until my next update …. keep well – keep safe.
CEO, CCF Victoria