To: CCF Victoria staff, members and stakeholders.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update – From the CEO desk.
It has been a long day but I wanted to provide you an update on developments, our representations on your behalf and respond to the many questions and queries being raised by you.
I have received considerable correspondence seeking further clarification on the announcements made by the State Government yesterday (3rd July) in regards to Stage 4 restrictions in Metro Melbourne, the businesses and activities classified for exemptions, the actual interpretation of this and how will this be practically applied in the civil construction industry and its various sectors.
As you will appreciate, the announcements yesterday afternoon were very “light on in detail” and this will evolve over the next 48-72 hours. At the Building & Construction Working Group meeting convened last night and also this morning, we met with representatives from the Department of Premier & Cabinet and the Chair of the Building & Construction Industry Task Force. Based on these discussions and representations, it is clear that there are major issues with some of the restrictions in the vertical build sector and their practical application at an operational level. I have also engaged late today with the Hon Jacinta Allan, in her capacity as Minister for the Coordination of Transport: COVID-19; to discuss the potential impact of the Stage 4 restrictions on these key major infrastructure MTIA projects.
Based on discussions today, we can take some comfort from the fact that under Stage 4 restrictions, State and state civil construction projects (including Stage 3 – Regional Victoria) are exempt from these Stage 4 restrictions on the basis that you put in place a “High Risk” COVID-19 Safety Plan, ie:
- Civil Construction falls under the CONSTRUCTION Sector
- Infrastructure works will be Open (for site works) – COVID safe plan
“Construction of critical and essential infrastructure and services to support these projects”
- Residential and Commercial sub division Civil Construction will be Restricted or Industry Specific Obligations
“State and State Civil construction are exempt from reduction targets but will be required to implement High Risk COVID Safe Plan”
A dedicated Industry Coordination Centre has been set up within the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR) to support businesses and consider “grey area” cases to determine if businesses can safely operate under Stage 4 restrictions. To discuss your business, you can call Business Victoria on 13 22 15.
That said, there is still confusion being reported to me directly by many of you, as to the definition and series of announcements made by Government, ie:
- “State and state civil construction” …. what does this refer to and what is its’ definition (ie: state vs private civil construction). Adding to this confusion is the following article that appeared in The Age today, that quoted “State and civil construction projects will be exempt from the reduction targets but required to implement COVID safety plans.” https://www.theage.com.au/business/companies/building-industry-unites-to-oppose-covid-19-shutdown-20200803-p55i0a.html
- “High Risk” COVID-19 Safety Plan …. there is no “High Risk” plan or template on the Business Victoria website and how does this differ from COVID-19 Safety Plans; https://www.business.vic.gov.au/disputes-disasters-and-succession-planning/covid-safe-business/creating-a-covid-safe-workplace . We are currently instructing CCF members to refer to the Building & Construction Industry Guidelines (version 6) as the standard for developing High Risk Plans and further details will be released by DJPR over the coming days. Those members seeking assistance in regards to the development of their “High Risk” or COVID-19 Safety Plans, please contact our HSEQ Officer, Trevor Derham, at firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile(0458) 363-368.
I tabled the above issues today with Government and the Building & Construction Industry Task Force for clarification on your behalf. In addition, I am seeking further clarification in having civil construction to be classified in the exemption matrix as:
- Residential sub division civil construction continues with a High Risk COVID Safety Plan in place.
- Non – Residential sub division civil construction continues with a High Risk COVID Safety Plan in place.
This will greatly assist in clarifying what civil construction activities and sectors are exempt.
In addition, there is confusion in the Land Development Property sector for broad acreage “green field” sites, where residential construction is are restricted to a maximum of 5 workers and how does this apply for civil works. For example, a 50 lot subdivision would on average be on say a 40,000m2 site and construction work is completed by multiple small gangs of workers. A gang of workers would usually be 5 or less and at any one time you would not expect more than 15 workers on a project. Say 3 to 4 small gangs, 15 workers spread across a 40,000 m 2 site with up to 50% of those on individual pieces of earthmoving plant.
These are just a small sample of your questions being raised directly with me over the last 24 hours and submitted to Government. Without proper classification for civil sectors under stage 4 restrictions, the risk is that local government, departments and agencies will place their own interpretation on permitted, or restricted activities. I hope to have a response from the Government over the next 24 hour period and will revert to you with further clarification in due course.
“The Statistics” (number of Covid-19 cases in Victoria) & New Penalties
On Monday 3 August 2020, Victoria recorded:
- 439 new COVID-19 cases (429 on Sunday) and 11 fatalities bringing the total in Victoria to 147. Our thoughts and deepest sympathy is with these families.
- 1186 active cases are linked to the Aged Care sector.
The Premier announced the introduction of new penalties after over 3000 investigations conducted by the ADF for potential COVID-19 cases, with “stay at home” instructions in place, revealed over 800 were absent from their premises. A fine of $4,957 can now be issued to a person who is found to breach the requirement to be self-isolating for a second or subsequent time.
Employer Permit Scheme
With new restrictions on business and industry coming into force from Wednesday night, employees working in permitted industries (ie: civil construction) who cannot work from home will be required to carry a new “Worker Permit” when travelling to and from work.
I have been waiting this evening for this document and link to be made available and enable you to download the form for completion. As yet, the permit template has not been released by DJPR who are overseeing the scheme.
From 11:59pm Wednesday 5 August in Melbourne, employers that require their staff to attend a work site must issue a worker permit to their employees. Guidelines and the permit template are available for your use and can viewed/downloaded here: https://www.justice.vic.gov.au/permitted-worker-scheme
Until my next update …. keep safe – keep well.
CEO, CCF Victoria