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How should I manage my construction sites during Coronavirus?

March 24, 2020

In a recent statement the Prime Minister explicitly stated that construction sites are an essential service and will remain open.

Talking to your clients and your contractors about how your business is responding to Coronavirus so you can continue working is very important.

Any person managing a building site, along with all individuals on site, have a duty to take reasonable care for their own and others health and safety.

You may not be able to completely eliminate the risk of workers contracting COVID-19 while carrying out work however you must do all that is reasonably practicable to minimise that risk.

Q. What precautions should I take onsite?

Residential building sites are typically small scale, with less than ten workers at any time, on projects that are open to the air, with a workforce that typically travels in private or company vehicles rather than by public transport. 

The industry is therefore not subject to the same COVID-19 related issues as other industries.

However, generally, you should:

  • Determine appropriate measures in consultation with workers, and clients taking account of official information sources.
  • Implement those measures and clearly communicate them including providing clear direction and guidance about what is expected of workers including: 
      i) workers should know when to stay away from the workplace
     ii) what action to take if they become unwell, and 
    iii) what symptoms to be concerned about 
  • Provide workers with appropriate personal protective equipment and facilities, and information and training on how and why they are required to use them
  • Require workers to practice good hygiene, including:
      i) frequent hand washing 
     ii) limiting contact with others, including through shaking hands, and
    iii covering their mouths while coughing or sneezing
  • Require workers to stay away from the workplace if they are unwell and not fit for work, and encourage them to seek medical advice as appropriate.

Example: A homeowner who is having a second story addition constructed has returned from overseas and is required to self-isolate for 14 days. After discussions with the homeowner and other workers it is decided that the works are suspended for the isolation period. All parties agree to the necessary extension of time to the building period.

Q. How do I comply with social distancing on site?

This will depend on how many workers are onsite at any one time. It may be worth investigating whether works can be scheduled to reduce the number of people on a site at any one time.

Q. What if I can’t get supplies of preventive measures, such as hand sanitizer or masks?

If those supplies are not available, under WHS laws, it would not be reasonably practicable for you to provide them. In this case, you should look to provide alternative options for workers.

Example: If there are no supplies of masks in Australia, you cannot be required to provide a mask. In those circumstances, you should consider what alternative measures or approaches can be taken to eliminate or minimise risk such as reducing the number of workers on site at any one time.

Example: If there are no supplies of hand sanitiser, you should consider providing access to water and soap at a hand washing station, along with regularly cleaning of that area.

However, if you unable to get the necessary supplies to minimise the risks you should consider whether the risks posed to workers and others at the workplace are so great that workers should not be required to attend the workplace and perform work. This will need to be determined on a case by case basis.

Q. What should I do if I feel unsafe at a worksite?

As is the normal approach to workplace safety, if you feel unsafe, or see someone engaging in unsafe practices you should raise it either directly with the person or with the person responsible for the site who can then take appropriate action.

Q. One of my workers has been confirmed as contracting COVID-19 – what should I do?

  1. Investigate when the worker was last onsite. Was it confined to one day in the last week, or a few hours each day for the last 5 days? 
  2. Advise other workers (including employees, contractors and any other visitors to site) and the client that your worker has a confirmed case of COVID-19 and the period that they were onsite.
    If you, your workers or your client were in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 you may need to self-isolate for 14 days. Click here for more information.
  3. Close the site down until it has been cleaned. Once the site has been cleaned it can be reopened.
    Click here for further information regarding:
    COVID-19 and employee leave
    How to manage contracts that may have been affected by COVID-19

If you have any further questions or concerns contact a HIA Workplace Adviser on 1300 650 620 or email enquiry@hia.com.au

Making space on site: Industry guidelines to manage COVID-19

In addition to this guidance information, HIA has made available two industry guidelines for new home sites and renovation and repair sites which provide members with information to manage onsite safety.

 

Download guidelines