To: CCF Victoria staff, members and stakeholders.

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

Good evening.

As we move toward Stage 4 restrictions (Metro Melbourne) from this evening with the introduction of the “permitted worker scheme” and the Building & Construction Industry transitions to restricted operations from 11.59pm this Friday, 7 August, my CEO updates are likely to now be a daily summary. So that you are well informed and that you are taking appropriate action within your business operations.

Today, I have fielded many personal calls and emails.  I apologise for the delays in getting back to many of you but as you will appreciate, this is difficult to do while engaged in meetings and telecons.  Hopefully, many of your queries will be answered through my regular updates but I will get back to you all over the ensuing 24-48 hour period.    

Number of Covid-19 cases in Victoria

On Tuesday 4 August 2020, Victoria recorded 725 new COVID-19 cases.  This is a significant increase on the 439 cases reported on Monday. The following chart from the DHHS website provides you with a good overview of the latest numbers. The concerning trend is the increase of positive cases being reported in the Building & Construction (vertical build) industry. 

An outbreak (defined as 2 or more positive cases) has occurred at another CBD project (vertical build) and DHHS has directed this site to close for 14 days whilst it investigates other close or casual contacts. A concrete pump worker from this site has since worked at another site, which is now affected with close and casual contacts.  This is a major issue for containing the spread of the virus and one of the reasons restrictions are being placed on site to site movement.

That said, it is duly recognised by Government and DHHS that the civil construction sector presents a “low risk” for spread of the C-19 virus due to the very nature of our construction works. I refer you to the work of the Building & Construction Industry Working Group submission to Government (below) for more details.

DHHS Advice on 11 day testing requirements

The following advice has been received from DHHS to clarify the need for 11 day testing requirements for positive cases and close contacts:

  • Positive cases: they do not need to have a test on day 11. These people are deemed to be no longer infectious based on their symptoms and time since becoming unwell (or positive test if no symptoms). They will be advised by DHHS when they are released from isolation and be provided with clearance prior to return to work.
  • Negative tests (for close contacts): close contacts are to be referred to the Building & Construction Industry Liaison Officer, and will receive daily messages and advice regarding day 11 testing. They should have something provided to them as evidence for need of a day 11 test. If they attend a testing site and state they are a close contact for day 11 testing, they should not be turned away.

Building and Construction Industry Working Group – Current Definitions of Work Restrictions

The Industry Working Group of industry associations and unions has met through most of the day with government department representatives to seek clarity in definitions.

SUBJECT TO APPROVALS – Specific reference is being made in clarifying the definitions of civil construction and its various sectors in the restricted plan, including land development:

  • Definition of categories: staged civil works as part of a greenfields residential development (roads, drainage, sewer, water etc) or industrial subdivisions or any civil works related to private development.  The issue here is that non-state civil works is not currently covered by definitions.  The guidelines released contain three different rules that could apply here:
  • Construction of critical and essential infrastructure and services to support [other] projects are listed in the “open column” requiring a COVID safe plan only.
  • State and state civil construction are exempt from reduction targets but need a High Risk COVID safe plan.
  • electricity and waste works are listed as open

Recommendation: that Civil infrastructure, open air enabling and, retention, piling, remediation, demolition and groundworks and the like works regardless of whether they are associated with a greenfields development should be permitted without additional restrictions, subject to a Universal COVID safe plan. They are low risk activities, usually in open air.  If that is not possible, different categories could be defined under large and small categories for civil.

  • State and state civil construction: definition and construction of non-state education infrastructure (both higher education and non-state schools). Definition does not cover universities or private schools, which are not strictly state or state civil construction but do have time sensitive elements to meet education schedules for 2021 term commencements. This type of work is important to economic recovery.

Recommendation: University construction should be included in civil construction and not subject to reduction targets but subject to a Universal COVID Safe Plan. Plus Private health services/aged care.

  • Professional, Scientific and Technical Services: are currently classified as closed for on-site work.  Does this definition mean such professionals cannot attend onsite construction work? Such a restriction would delay other permitted activity (eg an onsite certification).

Recommendation: We are requesting an additional dot point be added to the “Open for Onsite work” column which includes if “work otherwise critical to provision of another permitted activity

  • Land Subdivisions (NEW DEFINITION): There is no definition in current guidance document and this is critically important to land subdivision and greenfield development being able to continue with confidence.

Recommendation  That a new definition be introduced as being Land Development consisting of earthworks, roads and civil consistent with a subdivision works for the purposes of residential or industrial.  # it should be noted that there is an acknowledgement here that civil works will not be subject to the restricted worker numbers as expressed in small & large categories for Commercial & Residential construction works.

  • Construction of critical and essential infrastructure and services to support these projects.  This is yet to be defined and is causing considerable confusion and concern. We would like to see confirmation that this includes industrial projects that are critical infrastructure for the supply of essential consumer goods/services to sustain basic functions of simple life.

The list is quite exhaustive but I have endeavoured to extract the key elements as they impact on our industry.  Supply Chain is another area of discussion to ensure goods & services are available for approved works.

Two further meetings are planned for tomorrow morning and evening, at which time I will be in a position to provide you further direction and definition.  I am encouraging all CCF members to check the DHHS website regularly and I will continue to keep CCF members abreast of developments with important industry updates.

COVID-19 Safety Plans

For the civil construction industry, as noted above we are challenging the definition of “High Risk” vs “Universal” COVID-19 Safety Plans.  I have indicated to all of you that as an industry, we should defer to the Building & Construction Industry Guidelines (version 6) in supporting the development of your plans.

Both our HSEQ Officer, Trevor Derham, and myself have fielded many enquiries today regarding the development of COVID-19 Safety Plans.  Trevor has been “hard at work” and supporting members in development of their plans.  Please find attached the COVID Safe Plan Template, Associated Guidance & Workplace Attendance Register to assist you in this regard. All resources are available to CCF members to complete their plans and available via the link below to Business Victoria.

“Permitted worker scheme”

Just a refresh from my note this morning, from 11.50pm tonight (Wednesday 5 August), worksites which are permitted to remain open (this includes the building and construction industry, which is a permitted industry under restricted activity from midnight 7 August), must have a Permitted Worker Permit. The following extract is from the Department of Justice Website:

From 11:59pm on Wednesday 5 August, employers that require their staff to attend a work site must issue a worker permit to their employees – this is the employer’s responsibility.

Today, the State Government also announced that only the children of permitted workers and vulnerable kids will be able to access childcare and kinder. In recognition of the realities of trying to undertake critical work functions while supervising small children, for the purposes of accessing childcare or kinder, a permitted worker will also include someone working from home.  The new Access to Childcare Permit will sit alongside the Permitted Worker Scheme announced yesterday.

Guidelines and the permit template have been previously forwarded to you are available for your use from the following link at the Department of Justice and Community SafetyPlease save this link, or download the document, for your future reference and use.

In signing off, I extend to all of you and your respective families, my best very wishes during these challenging times and thank you for the many personal positive comments back to me regarding the updates. It is very much appreciated.

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

Kind regards

John Kilgour

CEO, CCF Victoria