To: CCF Victoria staff, members and stakeholders.

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

Good evening.

I have been encouraging many of you to keep an eye on the DHHS website and during the afternoon you will have seen the release of Stage 4 restrictions, guidelines and definitions as it relates to the Building & Construction industry, including civil (refer attached).  This is in direct response to our representations and submissions made on behalf of the industry to obtain greater clarification of the definitions previously released.  The following classifications were updated and released for permitted work premises:

  • Building and non-building construction (including residential)
  • Construction of critical and essential infrastructure and services to support these projects, and other construction in line with restrictions
  • Critical repairs to any premises, are allowed, where required for emergency or safety.

The following is a summary of the COVID-19 cases reported, key announcements made today and the briefings I have received as part of the Building & Construction Industry Working Group.

Number of Covid-19 cases in Victoria

Today, Thursday, 6 August 2020, there were 471 new positive cases reported in Victoria yesterday, down from 725 on Tuesday. Two more Building & Construction sites (vertical build) were closed for precautionary cleaning as a result of previous site visits from formwork crews who tested positive at a CBD Melbourne building site.

Incolink (COVID-19)  Testing following a positive case on site

Where there has been a positive case detected in a worker on a particular Building & Construction worksite, the Incolink/APC/CMS medical teams have organised a “strike team” to attend the next day for asymptomatic testing of the remaining workers who have not been required to isolate as close or casual contacts.

The Building & Construction Industry Working Group, strongly recommend, that any worker who refuses to be asymptomatic tested by Incolink/APC/CMS following a positive test on that site, not be allowed to continue working on that site. This recommendation is based on what we are currently seeing of the delays in public health test results, the delays in incubation of the virus amongst workers who have been in close or casual contact and the disturbing trend in cross contamination of sites.

Building and Construction Industry Work – Stage 4 Restrictions

As stated, the State Government today released a Guidance document for the Construction sector under Melbourne’s Stage 4 restrictions – appearing on the Business Victoria website. A copy of the guidance document is attached and is also available via the following link.

As from 11.59pm, Friday 7 August 2020, the following changes will come into effect under Stage 4 restrictions and I have provided an update on actions emanating from the subsequent briefing discussions with the working group (in blue):

  • All businesses must have a COVID Safe Plan in place. This must be in place by 11.59pm on Friday 7 August 2020. Enforcement will be possible from Monday 10 August 2020. Please ensure your plan includes notifying the appropriate authorities if anyone attending your site tests positive to coronavirus (COVID-19). – The Business Victoria website provides a COVID-19 Safety Plan template & guidelines.  A “high risk” template is proposed to be developed and placed on the site.  In the interim, we are instruction contractors to complete their “High Risk” plans on the government released template using version 6 industry guidelines and then build in the attached Stage 4 restriction guidance into their “high risk” plans and notate accordingly.
  • On small & large-scale construction sites, supervisors and trades specialist can move between up to 3 sites per week, subject to enhanced COVID-19 safe practices. All employees, supervisors and on-site specialists are prohibited from car-pooling, required to inform their employer if they share accommodation with anyone in another high-risk workplace, and also required to limit their movement between multiple sites and observed enhanced PPE and hygiene measures if working between sites.

As you are aware, as an industry we were seeking “one site / one day” and this was rejected.  We are seeking clarification on “enhanced” safe practices and the PPE required to accompany this.

  • Large-scale construction sites: the definition of “large scale has been broadened in the guidelines, ie:
  • > 3 stories excluding basements;
  • > 1,500 square metres – seeking clarification on whether this is building size or lot size;
  • Any office, or retail fit out;
  • Industrial, large format, or retail use;
  • Worksites must have a maximum of 25% of their baseline workforce, being the average daily number of personnel on site across the project life cycle as derived from the projects written resource plan as at July 2020.  These sites can operate with 25% of their daily peal and daily total workforce.  There is a calculated definition on the DHHS website and guidelines.  While there is a separate section for civil (as noted below), it is not clear and yet to be clarified whether civil construction is captured under this category.  The Government is also to advise whether there will be a separate definition for the Land Development Sector, with both issues to be clarified in the next 24 hour period. We are also seeking clarification on the definition of “critical & essential” infrastructure for exemptions.  While we have been advised that there will be very few exemptions to these worksite levels, there will be a panel introduced where you can put forward exemptions and this is still being worked out.  The Master Builders Victoria are instructing their members to apply the 25% rule and then submit a succinct business case for the exemption.  A dedicated “hotline” is being established to support the construction industry with their enquiries.  
  • Small-scale residential construction sites:
  • May have a maximum of 5 people on-site, plus a supervisor, at any one time.  This now means that (1) one supervisor is permitted in addition to the (5) five people of site. We are seeking greater definition on “supplies vs trades” who are exempt from these numbers at both large & small scale sites (ie: concrete, asphalt etc)

There is also clarification provided the definition of public & private construction but it is the following Q&A posting that is causing some further confusion, when viewed in conjunction with the guidelines issued:

Why are civil construction sites excluded from these restrictions?

Civil construction sites, like all construction sites, are required to have a High Risk COVIDSafe Plan. They are not subject to additional restrictions because they are low-risk activities, usually in the open air. Public and private civil works will be treated the same under Stage 4 restrictions.I have requested further clarification on this definition and how this relates to the above restrictions for large & small scale construction sites.

Stage 4 Restrictions MRWA – Sewer and Water Auditing

The Association of Land Development Engineers (ALDE) have been also working hard to try to clarify a number of areas for members in regards to the restrictions being put in place for civil construction sites during the Stage 4 restrictions. While the permitted work premises description has been changed to now include “non-building construction”, as previously stated the directions which will outline the restrictions on those permitted premises are yet to be released.

Together with ALDE representatives, CCF met yesterday afternoon with the Emergency COVID-19 Group comprising ALDE, SEW, YVW, CWW, WW, CCF and UDIA.  The meeting was called to discuss arrangements to minimise the movement of auditing personnel between sites. Below is a summary of the meeting outcomes and subsequent discussions.: 

  • Routine inspections …. Interim position effectively immediately until further notified, photographic (or video) evidence provided by the contractor will be accepted in lieu of physical attendance by the consultant for routine site inspections. The consultant and the contractor are to agree on the number and location of photos based on a risk based approach.  The consultant will be responsible for compiling and storing the evidence as per their standard site inspections records. 
  • Acceptance testing (swabbing, pressure, potable/recycled cross connection inspections, sewer vacuum testing), UDIA, CCF and ALDE are working with various levels of government to better understand where land development projects lie within the ‘construction’ sector as all parties agree that the current advice does not categorise land development appropriately. Once this is known we will be better placed to determine the safe number of personnel that may attend site for ‘critical’ hold points which includes acceptance testing.

Further discussions will be held next week on the requirements associated with undertaking acceptance testing.  For projects requiring acceptance testing over the next few days please contact the relevant water authority to discuss options.  I would like to acknowledge the collaborative work with ALDE’s Rod Jackson, Mark Fleming and Karen Leoncelli.

In summary, any businesses who already has a COVID Safe Plan should check it against the new template to ensure compliance. Any previous plans need revisiting to reflect the real and current risk in our community at present, reflect current rules and to refine any work practices based on what we’ve learnt over the past (4) four months in this new way of working.  The Building & Construction Industry Guidelines are an excellent reference material .. use it. 

Any person attending a site for work will need to have a permit issued by their employer. Permits can only be issued for permitted industries and within the industry specific obligations. Unfortunately the requirements for land development remain unclear, so caution should be exercised before any permits are issued.  Based on my discussions today, there will be compliance monitoring and it will be retrospective.  Which authority will undertake this work is still to be determined.

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

Kind regards

John Kilgour

CEO, CCF Victoria