Thousands of Victorian construction workers will be back on the tools from next week as building sites reopen under strict public health orders, including a new vaccination mandate.
The move follows a tumultuous two-week shutdown prompted by rising numbers of Covid cases across the sector.
Effective from Tuesday, larger construction sites can have up to 25 per cent of workers onsite and on smaller scale projects up to five workers and a supervisor are able to be onsite.
Workers must have had a least one dose of Covid vaccine and carry an authorised workers permit.
If all workers are fully vaccinated and crib rooms “meet best practice” large-scale construction sites can have up to 50 per cent of their workforce onsite. Projects on the state critical infrastructure list will operate at 100 per cent as long as crib rooms follow best practice guidelines.
Under the government’s new construction sector roadmap, the industry and its workers must adhere to a raft of new measures to ensure they can reopen sites and remain open.
Every construction site in Victoria must have a designated fully-trained Covid marshal to ensure compliance with the chief health officer’s directions.
Prior to reopening, operators will be required to attest that they have implemented the directions and every site will need to have an up-to-date vaccination register available for compliance checks at all times.
Teams of authorised workers will conduct checks to enforce the directions, and penalties will be in place for builders and site operators that do not comply—including site shutdowns for significant or repeated breaches.
“We’ve worked really hard with the industry to ensure they can reopen safely,” Victorian treasurer Tim Pallas said.
“But the message is clear: we won’t tolerate it operating in a way that puts the rest of our community at risk.”
The recent shutdown and protests followed the Victorian government issuing a mandate requiring all construction workers to have had at least their first Covid vaccine dose by September 23.
In ugly scenes, hundreds of angry hi vis-clad “rogue” demonstrators stormed the streets of the locked-down Melbourne CBD sparking the deployment of riot police, who used tear gas and fired rubber bullets to control the hostile crowd.
It was conservatively estimated the abrupt site closures and resulting project delays would cost the industry $1 billion a week but some experts believed the total damage bill could be more than $6 billion.
Australian Constructors Association chief executive Jon Davies welcomed the Victorian government’s decision to reopen construction sites from Tuesday.
“The Victorian government has worked closely with the ACA and other industry stakeholders to determine the best way for the industry to show full compliance with the public health measures and directions,” Davies said.
“A tightening of protocols has been part of the solution, along with vaccination requirements. The key to putting an end to restrictions and lockdowns is vaccination.”
Under the new construction sector roadmap, subject to continued high levels of compliance by the industry, workforce caps will progressively increase.
When 70 per cent of Victoria’s population is double vaccinated, large-scale construction projects will return to 100 per cent onsite workforce. All worksite caps will be removed when the state reaches its 80 per cent vaccination target.
All onsite workers must be fully vaccinated by November 13.
Fully-vaccinated workers can travel between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria in order to work onsite.