To: CCF Victoria staff, members and stakeholders.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update – From the CEO desk.

Firstly, I would like to thank you all for the positive feedback that I have received to my regular updates, in particular your comments in relation to the timeliness of information being received … it is very much appreciated.

What is pleasing to report is that we are actively working together as part of the Building & Construction Industry to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of everyone in our sector.  We have responded swiftly and collaboratively to manage the challenges of COVID-19 confronting us now and strengthening capability for recovery.  This action has been duly noted by Government and with “self-help” initiatives such as the establishment of the Building & Construction Industry Working Group, including Employer Groups and Unions, and the development and release of safety guidelines (current version 6); setting the standard for other industries to follow. Please refer the following link for the latest revision of the COVID-19 Guidelines for the Building and Construction Industry Victoria.

Revision 6 of the Guidelines has been released 28th July 2020, after governor in council approval of a new WorkSafe regulation to make Coronavirus a notifiable incident. The industry guidelines remain the most comprehensive set of instructions and information available to the industry which if followed, provide the best possible defense to any serious outbreak. Whilst are seeing a steady trickle of positive cases from community transmissions, we have been spared the worst of the outbreaks that are occurring in other industries or locations.  Following the introduction of temperature testing and mandatory wearing of face masks, there are very few if any initiatives left to introduce. So now is the time for developers, contactors and safety managers / representatives to get out there and promote and enforce the implementation of the guidelines on construction sites – to stay the course and stay well.

COVID-19 Incident Notification to WorkSafe

We have received formal notification from WorkSafe of the introduction of new Temporary Occupational Health and Safety (COVID-19 Incident Notification) Regulations 2020 (OHS COVID-19 Regulations) which commenced yesterday, Tuesday 28 July 2020.

Previously, employers were not required to notify WorkSafe Victoria (WorkSafe) of an infectious disease in the workplace, unless immediate inpatient treatment is required or the disease is the cause (or suspected cause) of a death. In this state of emergency and pandemic situation, timely notification of potential workplace transmission of COVID‑19 is critical for efficient and effective management of related health and safety risks, and the prompt investigation of potential breaches of employer duties.

The OHS COVID-19 Regulations will extend the operation of Part 5 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) to require duty holders to notify WorkSafe if: 

  • an employer becomes aware that an employee or independent contractor engaged by the employer, and any employees of the independent contractor, has received a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and has attended the workplace within the infectious period (being 14 days prior to receiving the confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and until clearance from isolation has been received); or
  • a self-employed person has received a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and has attended the workplace within the infectious period (being 14 days prior to receiving the confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and until clearance from isolation has been received).

A penalty will apply for failing to notify WorkSafe under section 38 of the OHS Act – up to $39,652 (240 penalty units) for an individual or $198,264 (1200 penalty units) for a body corporate.

The OHS COVID-19 Regulations are temporary in nature and will expire 12 months after their making. WorkSafe will review the OHS COVID-19 Regulations during the 12-month period of operation.

WorkSafe is committed to ensuring you have all of the information you need to implement these measures during these unprecedented times and will provide guidance and support to assist you with the commencement of the OHS COVID-19 Regulations.

Further information is available on the WorkSafe website here:

Positive Cases

There were 384 new positive cases reported in Victoria Monday 27th July following what we hope was the peak of 532 on Sunday. Two (2) further positive case have been reported Tuesday 28th in our industry and that makes six (6) since my last update.  This brings the total number of cases reported in the Building & Construction Industry to 63 with over 12,000 tests conducted at 150 locations.

Incolink Onsite Testing

We are continuing to see an intensive onsite testing program being conducted at Building & Construction sites by Incolink, APS and Company Medical Services.  There are 5 mobile clinics deployed and the following statement is provided by Incolink, outlining the arrangements for onsite testing, which have been approved by DHHS.

“The Incolink covid-19 onsite testing program is a targeted preventative program conducting voluntary testing on asymptomatic (without symptoms) workers in the construction industry. As per DHHS guidelines, asymptomatic workers who have volunteered to be tested for in this program are not required to self-isolate and can return to work or go about their usual activities whilst waiting for their results.  However, no worker should attend site if they feel unwell or have any covid-19 symptoms and should attend a community testing facility.  All Incolink covid-19 testing clinics are supported by a doctor.  If a worker develops symptoms onsite prior to attending the covid-19 testing, they will receive a consultation with the doctor.  The doctor will assess the worker’s symptoms and may send the worker home to self-isolate whilst waiting for their results. 

Testing will only be available to workers who have been inducted and checked in, at the site where the clinic is taking place.”

Building & Construction Industry Working Group: Submission to the Premier, Tuesday 28 July 2020.

CCF Victoria is continuing to work with representatives of the building, construction and development industry, advocating on your behalf to the Premier and the Crisis Council of Cabinet to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on construction worksites.  This is our singular focus in the coming months, as we work to protect our workers and community, and maintain a strong state and national economy.

A key objective of this Industry Group is to inform the Victorian Government of proactive measures and actions implemented across the industry, led by unions, employers and stakeholders, to manage the challenges of COVID-19 and maintain safe operations across the building, construction and development sector.  We consult on potential containment measures, which will have short-term and long-term impacts on the building, construction and development industry and ensure that the Victorian Government has necessary information that may assist decision making.

This week, we made a joint submission to the Premier re-inforcing the actions we are taking that has enabled us to manage the challenges of COVID-19 and how this has strengthened our industry’s capacity for recovery.  As a result of this focused, practical effort, we were pleased to report that positive cases of COVID-19 remain very low in comparison to the overall case numbers in the Victorian community and they have continued to remain low over the last two weeks. Importantly, there appears to be very low transmission on construction sites and between sites with our data indicating that most cases can be traced to community transmission rather than close contact on sites.

Our request to the Victorian Government is that we will continue to assist maintain the building and construction industry as “essential work” and identify further innovative ways to support its ongoing safe operations. We accept that the circumstances can change rapidly and without warning. However, we are very confident that the building, construction and development industry can meet the challenges that confront us, and we always appreciate the level of consultation afforded to us. We have also requested that building, construction and development industry associations, unions and key stakeholders be jointly consulted to minimise impacts and duration and enable planning to occur.

Below is a joint Building, Construction and Development Industry COVID-19 paper submitted this to the Premier, that provides details of the Building & Construction Industry Working Group initiatives and collaboration. The paper also requests continued open dialogue with the State Government as we collectively navigate future phases of this pandemic.

Face Masks

The wearing of face masks (or shields) is now mandatory on all building and construction industry sites. It is pleasing to report that we are seeing excellent compliance with what is essentially, just another piece of PPE. The adjoining photo was taken by our Industry Liaison Officer, Michael Paynter, during is on-site visit yesterday to the Western Roads Upgrade project managed by WBHO, a civil engineering project. This is great to see and report back to CCF members.
But the “prize of the week” goes to this worker on the front page of the weekend newspaper. It is vital for the public perception of our industry that workers wear the face masks if leaving the site for meal breaks, or when working on the outside of sites in view of the public.  

The wearing of Face Masks is mandated for stage 3 restricted areas covering Melbourne Metro, Greater Melbourne Metro (ie: Mornington Peninsula) and Mitchell Shire.  Notwithstanding this and the guidance from DHHS, I refer all CCF members and contractors to the following instructions issued by the regulator, WorkSafe, under their guidelines and make specific reference to the last dot point, ie:

I trust this clarifies the situation and any queries you may have.  Please do not hesitate to contact our HSEQ Officer, Trevor Derham, either by email or mobile (0458) 363-368, if you have any further queries, or require clarification.

Federal Government’s HomeBuilder Grant Scheme

A number of contractors engaged in the land development sector, have highlighted the challenges presented by the Federal Government’s HomeBuilder Grant Scheme to support Property Developers and its impact in regards to its implementation by the State Government.

In brief, eligibility to receive the HomeBuilder grant (Federal Government):

  • the contract must be entered into by 31 December 2020;
  • construction must commence within 3 months of the contract date;
  • in certain circumstances this requirement may be extended by up to 3 months if commencement is delayed due to unforeseen factors outside the control of the parties;
  • for a comprehensive home building contract or an off-the-plan sales contract, construction commences when significant earthworks, excavations or physical building works commence;

CCF Victoria, together with CCF-WA, have been seeking an amendment to the current scheme to allow for an extension of construction works (ie: 6-12 months) to allow a sufficient time for these works to commence without placing undue pressure on contractors and workers to meet demands that potentially compromises workers safety.  In brief, although the $25k Federal Government HomeBuilder Grant Scheme is welcome, it is limited and placing pressure on contractors when connected together with a block of land under contract. One only has to work the dates in reverse to highlight the shortfall and complexity created and we are seeking amendments at a federal level along the lines of … “if build is connected to a lot not yet titled, although land contract signed, then build must commence before 31 December 2021.”  

We support and acknowledge the work of Rebecca Casson – CEO Master Builders Victoria and Danni Hunter – UDIA Victoria, and their submission to the State Revenue Office (SRO) in this regard, recommending the following changes to the Homebuilder Grant Scheme in addressing industry’s key issues:

  1. Extension of timing for commencement;
  2. Defining ‘commencement’;
  3. Requirement for applicant to be registered on the certificate of title;
  4. Eligibility;
  5. Clarity around timing of payment

A copy of the joint submission by MBV and UDIA Victoria is below and also via the attached link on the UDIA website … SRO & Commonwealth Government HomeBuilder Package.  We will keep members abreast of any changes being made to the HomeBuilder Grant Scheme through our respective advocacy work at a Federal and State level.

Victorian Government Worker Support Payment

I mentioned in my last update, the State Government support being made available for businesses and workers.  The following information is extracted from the DHHS website for your further reference.

If you have been instructed by the Department of Health & Human Services to self-isolate or quarantine at home because you are either diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19) or are a close contact of a confirmed case you may be eligible for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Worker Support Payment, ie:

  • one-off $300 payment to support Victorian workers, including parents and guardians, who are required to self-isolate while you wait for the results of your coronavirus (COVID-19) test. 
  • one-off $1500 payment to support Victorian workers who have been instructed by the Department of Health and Human Services to self-isolate or quarantine at home because they are either diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19), or are a close contact of a confirmed case.

Until my next update …. keep well – keep safe.

Kind regards

John Kilgour

CEO, CCF Victoria