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COVID-19 Update: Use of face masks domestic building sites in Victoria

July 21, 2020

The Victorian Government has announced that it will be mandatory from midnight on Wednesday 22 July for all people living within or entering the restricted area of greater metropolitan Melbourne and the Shire of Mitchell to wear masks when they are outside their home for one of the four allowed reasons unless an exemption applies.
The four allowed reasons include leaving for work or study where that cannot be carried out at home, shopping for food supplies, care giving and medical care and recreation or exercise.

How does this requirement apply to workplaces?

The new requirement will apply to anyone who leaves home in the restricted area or enters the restricted area.  This means that unless it is not practicable, all workers and visitors to workplaces should wear a face mask. It may not be practicable to wear a face mask at all times and specific exemptions have been listed by the Government including medical conditions, when consuming food or drink and when travelling in a vehicle alone and several other reasons.

How does this requirement impact domestic building sites?

The requirement to wear face masks will apply to workers and visitors to domestic building sites from and within the restricted area. This means that everyone on a building site within the restricted area must wear a face mask unless is not practicable to do so.

HIA advises our members to continue to follow all of the requirements of the Making Space on Site Industry Guidelines for domestic building sites, which provide advice about ensuring the government’s social distancing and other health and hygiene requirements are met at all times.

The HIA Guidelines provide advice on the use of PPE on domestic sites which includes:

  • Providing all workers with access to personal protective equipment including gloves, masks and eye protection appropriate to the work they are performing on site
  • Ensuring all contractors entering the site have their own personal protective equipment 

It is important to appreciate that wearing face masks is a measure that complements and does not replace other measures such as maintaining social distancing, continuing to follow good hygiene practices and ensuring workers and visitors with recent possible contact with COVID-19 are excluded from the site.

What about visitors to offices, display suites and building sites?

The requirement to wear a face mask applies to anyone travelling to an office, display suite or building suite within the restricted areas.  Any visitors will need to have a face mask when travelling into the area to attend your business if located in the restricted area, therefore they should continue to wear the face mask while visiting your business.  

Members should consider whether they wish to permit entry to a site by a visitor that refuses to wear a face mask.  Businesses have an obligation to maintain a safe workplace and imposing the requirement to wear a face mask already in the person’s possession is reasonable for the purpose of complying with this restriction.

Who is responsible for supplying face masks?

While the primary responsibility for supplying face masks for employees will fall to the employer or person in control of a work site, it is a requirement that everyone living and entering the restricted area has a responsibility to have a mask when leaving their home. Therefore many workers will arrive at sites with their own mask. An employer should ensure there is a supply of face masks at the site for their employees, regardless of whether they bring their own mask.

With subcontractors the position is not so obvious.  Generally subcontractors supply their own materials including tools and other supplies. In line with HIA’s Guidelines, subcontractors should be providing their own PPE including face masks under these restrictions. However it is important that the builder ensure that face masks are available on site for all persons entering the site to avoid confusion and to ensure that in the event they do not or cannot supply their own face mask, they are adequately protected.

What do I do if I can’t source face masks?

One reason why the government may have given a few days notice of the requirement to use face masks is the need for everyone to source face masks.  The government has also indicated that other face coverings may be appropriate if proper face masks cannot be sourced. However HIA recommends if possible members avoid the use of face coverings other than face masks. The obligation to maintain a safe workplace means that suitable face masks should be used wherever possible.

Further information about the new requirements is available here.

It is expected that this website will be updated over the coming days with more information.

Other Issues: New Rules around Cross Border Travel from 22 July 

Members who work on the Victorian/NSW border should note that new border entry rules into NSW from 22 July. Only persons authorised under the public health order may enter NSW if they have been in Victoria in the last 14 days. 

The new rules have made changes to the eligibility criteria for permits, and redefined the border zone resident. This means that if you: 

have an existing permit, it will expire on 22 July and you will no longer be allowed to enter NSW if you're not already in the state (unless your permit was issued on compassionate grounds)

are in NSW under a permit issued before 21 July and then you leave NSW, the permit will expire

have an existing permit but have not already entered NSW, you must continue to comply with any conditions such as self- isolation

are in NSW under a permit issued before 21 July, you may remain in NSW in accordance with the permit.  

To find out more on the NSW border permits, including the way to apply for a new permit, visit ServiceNSW

Want to know more?

HIA reminds members that a range of resources are available online and members can contact HIA Workplace Services on 1300 650 620 for more information.