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COVID-19 Stage 4 restrictions for housing in Victoria - What you need to know

September 03, 2020

On 2 August the Victorian Government announced stage 4 restrictions for metropolitan Melbourne.

The complete details regarding the restrictions are continually being updated.  This information sheet provides details based on the current publically available information regarding key aspects of the stage 4 restrictions as they impact the residential construction industry.

Permitted Work

Residential construction work is allowed to continue during stage 4 restrictions subject to a number of restrictions.

The following types of construction work are permitted:

  • Early stage residential land development
  • Small-scale construction work, including renovations on unoccupied properties
  • Large-scale construction work

All permitted construction work must:

  • Have a High Risk COVID Safe Plan in place that is regularly updated.
  • Allow no more than one worker per four square metres of enclosed workspace.
  • Limit movement of workers between different sites where possible, and only with appropriate guidance.

You can commence new construction projects as long as the stage 4 restrictions are complied with.

Early Stage Residential Land Development Site

Q. What is an early stage residential land development site?

An early stage residential land development site comprises all civil works undertaken on open air, large greenfield sites that are associated with and preparatory to construction of multiple individual residential dwellings on that site (including site remediation and site preparation works, construction of utilities and construction of roads, bridges, stormwater/flood management works and trunk infrastructure).

Once subdivision occurs, the construction of that dwelling on that part of the site is regarded as a small scale construction site.

For large scale residential development (e.g. retirement village) with a single entity responsible for construction, once the construction of dwellings have commenced, it will be considered large scale construction, this includes an industrial or commercial development.

Q. How many workers can I have on an early stage residential land development site?

No more than 10 workers per hectare.

Small Scale Construction Site

Q. What is a small-scale construction site?

A small-scale construction site is a construction site that is not a large-scales construction site or an early stage residential land development site.

Note – see explanations about other construction work.

Q. What restrictions apply to small scale construction sites?

All small-scale residential construction site must:

  • Have a High Risk COVID Safe Plan in place that is regularly updated.
  • Allow no more than one worker per four square metres of enclosed workspace.
  • Only allow five workers onsite plus a supervisor at any one time.
  • Limit movement of Workers between different sites, and only with appropriate guidance and in accordance with the limits on specialist contractors.

Note: See the guidance below about movement between sites.

Q. Is there any work on a small scale construction site that is not considered 'construction work' for the worker number and movement limits?

Yes, work on a small-scale construction site before base stage and after fixing stage is not construction work for the purpose of limits on the number of workers and number of sites per week. This means that the strict five worker per site and three sites per week rules do not always apply for the work before the base stage is completed and after the fixing stage is completed.

You must however as much as practicable limit the number of workers on a site and the movement of workers between sites. 

Builders should still observe the five workers plus supervisor rule unless it is not safe to only have five workers. For example, it may be necessary to have more than five workers for a slab pour.
 
You must continue to keep records and workers must make declarations about site visits if working for multiple businesses. 

Note: See the guidance below about movement between sites.

Q. What works are carried out before base stage?

The definition of base stage comes from the Domestic Building Contracts Act.

"Base stage" means:

  • In the case of a home with a timber floor, the stage when the concrete footings for the floor are poured and the base brickwork is built to floor level.
  • In the case of a home with a timber floor with no base brickwork, the stage when the stumps, piers or columns are completed.
  • In the case of a home with a suspended concrete slab floor, the stage when the concrete footings are poured.
  • In the case of a home with a concrete floor, the stage when the floor is completed.
  • In the case of a home for which the exterior walls and roof are constructed before the floor is constructed, the stage when the concrete footings are poured.

Any alternate definitions in your actual domestic building contract do not override this definition.

Q. What works are carried out after fixing stage?

The definition of fixing stage also comes from the Domestic Building Contracts Act.

"Fixing stage" means the stage when all internal cladding, architraves, skirting, doors, built-in shelves, baths, basins, troughs, sinks, cabinets and cupboards of a home are fitted and fixed in position.

Any alternate definitions in your actual domestic building contract do not override this definition.

Renovation Work

Q. Can renovation work continue during stage 4 restrictions?

Not if the premises is occupied, unless the work is urgent and essential. Your client will commit an offence if they allow you to enter.

A premises includes the land on which the building is located. This means that renovation work outside the home that is occupied is also prohibited unless urgent and essential. For example, extensions, decks, pergolas, and landscaping can only continue if the property is vacant or such work is required to respond to an emergency or for safety reasons.

Q. What is considered urgent and essential building work?

HIA is seeking further clarification about what building work is considered urgent and essential but could be considered to include work:

  • required to make the home safe to occupy or allow the occupants to continue safely living in the home; or
  • to make existing renovation projects safe and secure to manage the risk to occupants, for example if however an essential part of the home, such as the only bathroom or the kitchen, would be unusable without existing work being completed then there may be some scope to complete the necessary work to allow the home to be occupied.

Q. Can the client leave the home to allow renovation work to continue?

The client may only vacate the home to allow for renovation work to continue in limited circumstances.  However they cannot move to a second residence to allow for renovation work to proceed in the residence they were living in when stage 4 restrictions commenced.

If the premises is unoccupied work can continue subject to the applicable restrictions for small-scale construction work.

Large Scale Construction Site

Q. What is a large-scale construction site?

A large-scale construction site is one that:

  • A planning permit has been issued for a building that is greater than three storeys, or
  • Is more than 1,500m2, floor size (inclusive of all floors); or
  • Is any office or retail fit-out, or
  • Is an industrial, large format or retail use.

Q. How many workers can I have on a large-scale construction site?

Worksites must not exceed a daily maximum of workers on site calculated as the greater of:

  • 25 per cent of the baseline site workforce (calculated below); or
  • 5 workers.

All workers count towards the applicable daily worker limit with the exception of workers specifically dedicated to oversight of COVIDSafe functions in the workplace.

To calculate the 25 per cent determine your baseline workforce.

Your baseline workforce is the average daily number of personnel on site across the project lifecycle, based on the project’s written resourcing plan as of 31 July 2020.

The resourcing plan and calculation are subject to audit.

Project lifecycle commences from the date of onsite mobilisation and ends at handover.

Who do the restrictions apply to?

Stage 4 restrictions apply to employees, employer and workers, including site supervisors and inspectors.

Q. Who is considered an ‘employee’?

An employee is employed by an employer and includes a person who is self-employed

Q. Who is considered an ‘employer’?

An employer means a person who owns, operated or controls a construction site and includes a person who is self-employed or a sole trader.

Q. Who is considered a ‘worker’?

Workers are people working on a site including, but not limited to, owners, managers, employees, contractors, workers on labour hire and security.

It does not include:

  • Workers undertaking emergency repairs and maintenance.
  • Staff specifically dedicated to oversight of COVID safe functions in the workplace e.g. workers doing additional cleaning of high-touch points or overseeing the implementation of COVID safe practices.
  • Workers who are delivering materials to a construction site provided they observe COVID safety rules and are only on site for time reasonably necessary to complete the delivery.

Q. Are there any restrictions on ‘workers’?

Yes. All Workers will be:

  • prohibited from car-pooling to and from work, unless it is not reasonable or practical to do so or the individuals reside at the same property,
  • required to inform their employer if they share accommodation with anyone working at another high-risk workplace,
  • required to limit movement between multiple construction sites.

Movement between sites

Q. Can Workers travel to multiple sites?

Yes, however you must limit the movement of all Workers between multiple construction sites.

Note: Explicit restrictions limit the number of sites that specialist contractors and professionals such as architects and building surveyors may visit.

Where it is not practical to limit a Worker to only one construction site you must be able to demonstrate that a system of work has been put in place that minimises the number of Workers working across multiple construction sites. For example, HIA’s Victorian making space on site Industry Guideline recommends ways to minimise overlaps between various trades on site, including project scheduling and using tools such as the HIA Site Manager QR Code or written site records to demonstrate a system to minimise the number of workers working across sites.

If travelling to multiple sites a Worker must provide you with a written declaration advising you that they are working at more than one site and provide details of the other sites to you.  This requirement applies regardless of whether the Worker works only you or for multiple employers.

You must also maintain a record of all workers who have advised that they are working across multiple sites.

Workers travelling between construction sites must observe enhanced PPE and hygiene

Measures, such as the use of face coverings.

Q. Can my site supervisor travel to multiple sites in one day?

Yes. Supervisors can move between multiple sites. They must observe enhanced PPE and hygiene measures if working between sites.  To manage the safety of all workers these movements should be minimised to what is necessary.

There is no definition of who qualifies to be a supervisor for the purpose of the rule allowing them to travel between sites.  It is recommended that the supervisor not be involved in the carrying out of building work to minimise their interaction with Workers on the site or to be regarded as being Workers and not supervisors.

Q. Can specialist contractors travel to multiple sites?

Yes, specialist contractors can move between up to three sites per week subject to enhanced COVID safe practices.

Based on the currently publically available information specialist contractors include:

  • Asphalters;
  • Carpenters;
  • Plasterers;
  • Carpet layers;
  • Sprinkler fitters;
  • Solar installers;
  • Security system installers;
  • Mobile Cranes – Operators and dogmen;
  • Electricians;
  • Plumbers, including roof plumbers;
  • Tile layers, including roof tilers;
  • Concreters;
  • Gold Class riggers;
  • Steel fixers;
  • Post Tensioners;
  • Vertical access riggers;
  • Welders;
  • Precast installers;
  • Caulkers;
  • Floor layers;
  • Window and glass installers/glaziers;
  • Engineers;
  • Floor installers;
  • Insulation installers;
  • Brick layers;
  • Joiners;
  • Painters;
  • Appliance installers;
  • Water proofers;
  • Cladding installers;
  • Termite specialists;
  • Mechanics who install and repair plant;
  • Landscape architects;
  • Renderers;
  • Cabinet installers;
  • Shower screen/mirror installers;
  • Retaining wall specialists;
  • Traffic engineers;
  • Geotechnical specialists;
  • Heritage and cultural heritage specialists;
  • Sewer contractors;
  • Earthworks and drainage specialists;
  • Telecommunications installers;
  • Gas contractors;
  • Geotechnical specialists;
  • Traffic engineers;
  • flora and fauna specialists;
  • Garage door installers;

HIA is aware that this list is subject to change.

These specialist contractors must provide a written declaration to each builder advising them that they are working at more than one site and provide details of the other sites to each builder.

Each builder must maintain a record of all Workers who have advised that they are working across multiple sites.

Q. Can I car pool to a construction site?

Where possible other arrangements, such as getting driven to and from site by another member of your household is preferable to carpooling. However, you are permitted to share a vehicle with another person even if you do not ordinarily live with them if it there is no other way for a worker to get to a construction site, for example, an apprentice who cannot drive themselves to work.

If sharing a car with people you do not live with you should sit in the back seat in order to maintain physical distancing, and wear a face covering in the car. Worksafe has more information about travelling for work.

Q. Can my workers living in Melbourne work at sites outside Melbourne?

Yes. Workers in permitted industries can travel to and from regional Victoria for work, subject to meeting COVID health and hygiene requirements and having their Worker Permit (see below). Travel between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria should however be limited and only undertaken for critical and essential reasons.

Workshops and Manufacturers

Q. I have a joinery workshop can I stay open?

Yes, ancillary and support businesses are able to open to ensure the necessary production, supply, manufacture, repair, maintenance, cleaning, security, wholesale, distribution, transportation or sale of equipment, goods or services required for the operations of permitted work.

COVID health and hygiene restrictions continue to apply.

Q. I manufacture, supply and install kitchens and bathrooms, can I stay open?

Yes, ancillary and support businesses are able to open to ensure the necessary production, supply, manufacture, repair, maintenance, cleaning, security, wholesale, distribution, transportation or sale of equipment, goods or services required for the operations of permitted work.

COVID health and hygiene restrictions continue to apply.

When attending a construction site, the restrictions that apply to onsite activities will apply including the restrictions on carrying out renovation work in an occupied premises.

Q. I manufacture, supply and install roof trusses, can I stay open?

Yes, ancillary and support businesses are able to open to ensure the necessary production, supply, manufacture, repair, maintenance, cleaning, security, wholesale, distribution, transportation or sale of equipment, goods or services required for the operations of permitted work.

COVID health and hygiene restrictions continue to apply.

When attending a construction site, the restrictions that apply to onsite activities will apply.

Maintenance and repair work

Q. Can I carry out maintenance and warranty work to meet contractual requirements?

If the home is occupied you will only be allowed to visit the home to carry out emergency repairs.  Other repairs will need to wait.

Deliveries to site

Q. Can I still take deliveries of products and materials onsite?

Yes.  The suppliers should only remain on site for as long as is reasonably necessary to deliver the products and materials.

Q. Am I limited to 5 workers including delivery persons?

No. Drivers and suppliers who deliver to site for a short period of time then leave are not included in the 5 worker rule.

Q. I currently have traffic control around my site, are they included in the maximum of 5 workers?

No, if they are not coming on the construction site, they will not be counted towards the maximum of 5 workers onsite.  It is important that they minimise any contact with workers onsite.

Waste removal

Q. Can I access waste transfer stations to remove trade waste from construction projects?

Yes. Trade waste from construction projects will be classified as waste from commercial contractors. This will enable access to waste transfer stations.

Under Stage 4 restrictions the intent is to reduce movement wherever possible. Trips to access waste transfer stations should only be done when necessary. Workers should keep a log of any places visited including date, time and place of attendance.

Inspections

Q. Can building inspections occur during stage 4 restrictions?

Yes.

Architecture, surveying, building inspections and engineering services, required for onsite permitted construction can be carried out. This includes inspections required to be carried out by building surveyors.  These professionals are however limited to three site visits per week.

Q. What about statutory inspections that must be carried out by building surveyors?

Inspections required by the law and carried out by building surveyors or their building inspectors are permitted.

Office work connected with construction work

Q. Can I open display homes/product selection centres?

Display homes/product selection centres in Melbourne are not permitted to operate.

Display homes/product selection centres in regional Victoria can open subject to complying with the density quotient, record keeping, signage and cleaning requirements.

Melbourne residents are banned from attending display homes in regional Victoria.

Q. Can I undertake office based contract signings with clients?

Yes. HIA has received written confirmation from the government that client may if necessary attend a contract signing to commence the construction process. 

However builders should do everything that is practicable to use other means to have contracts signed without the client attending an office.

Permitted Worker Permit

Q. Can I travel to a permitted construction site?

Yes.

You must have a worker permit and photo ID with you.

HIA has developed further information. You can download the permit here.

Safety

Q. What are the enhanced PPE and enhanced hygiene requirements?

These measures are outlined in the High-Risk COVIDSafe Plan.

Q. Am I required to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?

Yes, you must take reasonable steps to ensure that workers wears a face covering at all times when working on site unless the nature of the work means that wearing a mask creates a risk to heath and safety. This requirement also applies to workplaces in regional Victoria.

You must also have a PPE training plan in place that:

  • is consistent with best practice training plans; and
  • is provided to workers in multiple formats; and
  • is accessible for multilingual workers.

Q.   What are the cleaning requirements?

Shared spaces must be cleaned on a regular basis including:

  • Frequently touched surfaces, including toilets and hand rails, are cleaned at least twice a day.
  • Surfaces are cleaning when visibly soiled.
  • If there is a positive COVID test, a reasonable period has elapsed since the conclusion of the earlier case to allow for cleaning in between.
  • Surfaces accessible to a particular group are cleaned between groups.
  • Surfaces are cleaned immediately after a spill on the surface.

You must also have a cleaning log on display in all shared workplaces and publically assessable areas which sets out:

  • Dates, times and frequency the relevant areas has been cleaned, including frequency touched surfaces, toilets and handrails; and
  • Shift or other relevant worker group changes (where applicable) to show that relevant areas have been cleaned in between shift changes

Q. What is a High Risk COVID Safe Plan?

A High Risk COVID Safe Plan is a COVIDSafe Plan and an Additional Obligation Industry attachment. 

Q. When am I required to have a High Risk COVID Safe Plan?

All construction sites in metropolitan Melbourne must have a have a High Risk COVID Safe Plan. It is also expected that construction sites in regional Victoria will be required to have a COVID Safe Plan as of 28 September. A template COVID Safe Plan is now available.

Businesses that have been following the HIA guidance materials including our Making Space Guidelines, COVID Site Induction and Site Manager for COVID will satisfy the requirements set out in the Plan.

A Plan should be completed for each workplace.  It is recommended that you review the Plan each week to make sure that the Plan remains current and correct. 

The COVIDSafe Plan must be retained and be available for inspection on request. It will not be otherwise be submitted to or endorsed by the Victorian Government.

Q. What is an Additional Obligation Industry attachment?

An Additional Obligation Industry must be attached to your COVIDSafe Plan.

An Additional Obligation Industry must declare the following:

  • the location and nature of the activities undertaken at sites intended to continue restricted operations;
  • the peak workforce capacity levels calculated for each site and the time period used to establish these levels;
  • the restricted workforce levels proposed for each site during the restriction period calculated in compliance with the order; and
  • that the operator will retain and agrees to make available for inspection the business records and calculations used to establish the restricted workforce levels and demonstrate compliance with those restricted workforce levels through the period to which the restriction apply.

Download the High Risk COVIDSafe Plan Attachment  and further Guidance for the High Risk COVIDSafe Plan Attachment for the construction industry.

This attachment must be retained and be available for inspection on request. It will not be otherwise be submitted to or endorsed by the Victorian Government.

Q. What other records must I keep?

You must be able to demonstrate compliance with all Government directions by keeping records of:

  • the High Risk COVIDSafe Plan
  • Work Premises roster
  • Time attendance records;
  • Payroll data;
  • Records of all workers and all visitors who attend the site for longer than 15 minutes including:
    • Their first name;
    • A contact phone number;
    • The date and time at which the person attended the site;
    • The areas of the site the person attended.

Compliance and Enforcement

HIA understands that a specified worksite reporting regime will be established to ensure the specified worksites comply can provide independently verifiable evidence of their compliance during and after the restriction period.

Operators will be required to retain and make available for inspection evidence of the peak workforce capacity level determined, including roster, time and attendance, payroll and other site attendance records.

Q. Who will enforce these restrictions?

Authorised officers will be undertaking site inspections for workplaces subject to reduced operation requirements to ensure they are complying and have a complete High Risk COVIDSafe Plan.  It is expected these officers will include police and WorkSafe and VBA officers.

Q. How will compliance be monitored?

Site operators will be randomly selected for independent compliance review and asked to demonstrate compliance with the order. To facilitate these compliance reviews which will take place both during and after the Stage 4 restriction period, operators will be required to retain and make available for inspection site rosters, time and attendance data, payroll data and other site attendance records as requested.

Compliance reviews will be conducted by independent agents appointed by the Victorian Government for this purpose.

Further information

Further information for businesses regarding the stage 4 restrictions and how they apply to construction work is available on the Business Victoria website.

The Workplace (Additional Industry Obligations) Directions (No 5) set out details regarding the definition of the different types of construction sites, the number of workers allowed on construction sites, permitted travel between construction sites and any limits and the list of specialist contractors. These directions do not apply for small-scale construction work before completion of base stage and after fixing stage is reached.

The Workplace Directions (No 5) provides some further details regarding the COVIDSafe Plan and additional health and hygiene requirements, reducing work across multiple sites and how to respond to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 on a worksite. These directions include the requirements for controlling the movement of workers for small-scale construction work before completion of base stage and after fixing stage is reached.

Contact a HIA Workplace Adviser

1300 650 620

or email enquiry@hia.com.au

Current at: 21 September 2020
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