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Limiting time onsite

How should I manage my construction sites during Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

In a recent statement Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that construction sites are an essential service and will remain open for the time being. So, it’s incredibly important to talk to your employees, clients and contractors about how your business is responding to COVID-19 to ensure everyone continues working and interacting in a safe environment.

You may not be able to completely eliminate the risk of people contracting COVID-19 while carrying out work for your business, 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 outdoors, small scale with less than ten workers at any time, 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, you should:

  • Determine appropriate measures in consultation with workers and clients, taking account of official information sources, such as onsite meetings conducted with people standing no closer than two metres apart. 
  • Implement those measures and communicate them, providing clear direction and guidance about what is expected, for example:
  1. When should workers stay away from the workplace? What action should workers take if they become unwell?
  2. What symptoms should workers be concerned about?
  • Provide workers with appropriate personal protective equipment and facilities, as well as information and training on how and why they are required to use them.
  • Encourage workers to practice good hygiene, including:
  1. frequent hand washing 
  2. limiting contact with others, including through shaking hands
  3. covering their mouths while coughing or sneezing.
  • Encourage 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.

Visit HIA's new webpage dedicated to providing members with up-to-date information on COVID-19

www.hia.com.au/covid-19

Q: How do I comply with social distancing onsite?

The government has announced sites can operate seven days a week but it may be worth investigating whether works can be scheduled to reduce the number of people on a site at any one time or set up a roster rotation arrangement.

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

Under WHS laws if those supplies are not available, it is not considered reasonably practicable for you to provide them. In this case, you should look to provide alternative options for workers, such as minimising the number of workers onsite or setting up a hand-washing station.

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?

Much like 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 tested positive to 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 five days? 
  2. Advise other workers (including employees, contractors and any other visitors to the 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. 
  3. Close the site down until it has been cleaned. Once the site has been cleaned it can be reopened.

Q: Does workers’ compensation apply to cases of COVID-19?

Workers’ compensation arrangements differ across the country, however, there are common threshold requirements that would apply in the case of COVID-19:

  • the worker is covered by the scheme, either as an employee or a deemed worker
  • they have an injury, illness or disease of a kind covered by the scheme
  • their injury, illness or disease arose out of, or in the course of, their employment.

Compared to work-related injuries, it is more difficult to prove that a disease was contracted in, or caused by, particular employment. In the case of a virus such as COVID-19, establishing the time and place of contraction may become increasingly hard. 

Whether a claim for workers’ compensation for contracting COVID-19 is accepted will be a matter for the relevant workers’ compensation authority applying their jurisdiction’s particular laws. Workers’ compensation authorities will consider each claim on its merits, with regard to the individual circumstances and evidence.

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

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