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What Victorian Tradies need to know about the Stage 4 Lockdown

What Victorian Tradies need to know about the Stage 4 Lockdown

Last updated: Wednesday 16th September

Victoria’s Premier, Daniel Andrews, announced that the Stage 4 lockdown in metropolitan Melbourne would be extended until September 28 (assuming average daily new case rates are between 30-50). Roadmaps that outlined the four steps to reopening both metro Melbourne and regional Victoria were shared.

  • From 11:59pm on Sunday 13 September First Step restrictions apply in metropolitan Melbourne.
  • From 11:59pm on Wednesday 16 September Third Step restrictions apply throughout regional Victoria.

For Construction and Trades these Steps can be summarised as follows:

First Step: Heavily restricted. Workforce restrictions.
Second Step: Restricted.
Third Step: Open with a COVIDSafe Plan.
Last Step: Open with a COVIDSafe Plan.
COVID Normal: Open with a COVIDSafe Plan. No density quotient.

Under Stage 4, Step 1 restrictions most businesses in metropolitan Melbourne are to remain closed unless they are part of a permitted industry as set out in the Guide for Business - Stage 4 Restrictions document. While some in the construction and trades are allowed to work, there are a number of obligations that come with doing so.

In this article you’ll find templates for your High Risk or Universal COVIDSafe Plan and the Permitted Worker Scheme. The situation is fluid, however we will continue to update this article as new information comes to light.

Can my business stay open under First Step restrictions?

For Metropolitan Melbourne, First Step is much the same as Stage 4 with a few changes. Business Victoria have released guidance on how the Step 1 restrictions affect the Construction sector - read here.

In summary, the Permitted Work Premises now includes:

  • Building and non-building construction (including residential)
  • Construction of critical and essential infrastructure and services to support these projects, and other construction in line with restrictions.
  • Critical repairs to any premises, are allowed, where required for emergency or safety.

We understand the first two bullets to refer to work that does not impact members of the public i.e. has no occupants. The last bullet refers to business and residential premises (with occupants) and is restricted to jobs like fixing broken heating, electrical outages or faults, gas or water leaks, blocked toilets and the likes.

Renovation projects that started before lockdown continue to be on hold until restrictions are lifted.

The construction sector remains open, but will move to pilot light levels.

  • Large commercial construction projects are only allowed to have a maximum of 25% of their workforce on site. All personnel count towards the 25% with the exception of staff specifically dedicated to oversight of COVID safe functions in the workplace. with no more than 25% of the normal workforce onsite at any one time.
  • Small-scale construction must reduce the number of people of people on-site to five people plus a supervisor at any one time.

Read the full sector guidance information for definitions of large and small-scale.

Finally, if your worksite is located within Melbourne or Mitchell Shire, but you live outside the area, you must still adhere to restrictions in place for where your work is taking place.

If you are still unsure about what work you can and cannot complete, we suggest you reach out to the Victoria Business hotline 13 22 15.

What are the requirements of doing business under each step of reopening?

As an employer there are a number of obligations you must meet under all Steps on the Roadmap to reopening.

The Victorian State Government has issued industry specific guidelines for the 6 COVIDSafe principles for business. We’ve summarised some of the key points below, but recommend you read the full documents as outlined here:

You need for a COVIDSafe Plan

All open businesses, with 5 or more employees must have a COVIDSafe plan outlining their procedures for the safety, prevention and response to Covid-19. Ideally this will be created with input from employees and their representatives.
Furthermore, all construction sites need a High Risk COVIDSafe Plan.
If you have fewer than 5 employees, although not legally required, we would advise putting together a basic document outlining your internal prodecures to reassure yourself, your team and in case your customers would like to know how you are responding.

Large-scale construction requires a dedicated COVIDSafe Monitor on-site at all Steps.

Employees that must travel require a Work Permit.

Employees that need to travel for work will be required to carry a permit from their employer with them to explain their whereabouts. Information regarding the permitted worker scheme and a template for you to use can be found here.

Note: Due to the extension of the Stage 4 lockdown for metropolitan Melbourne you will need to issue new or update existing Worker Permits to reflect the new date range unless you have already issued permits with future date ranges.

Six COVIDSafe principles for Construction

1. Ensure physical distancing (1.5 metres)

Where possible, staff must work from home. Ensure your administration staff have access to hardware (i.e. laptops, internet, phone) and software (i.e. their login details) so they can continue working efficiently from home.

For onsite workers, physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres should be implemented wherever possible. Employers should consider each work task and whether there is a safe alternative way to undertake the work with an increased distance between workers.

2. Wear a mask or face covering

This is mandatory for everyone and features in all Steps of reopening.

3. Practice good hygiene

Good hygiene practices and general cleaning helps with minimising the spread of COVID-19. Employers should review general hygiene requirements and the cleaning regimes in place and display health information in prominent locations on site such as tea rooms, site offices, toilets, foyers, lifts and site entrances. Culturally and Linguistically Diverse resources and messaging is also required on site.

Ensure that appropriate amenities are available to staff for hygiene purposes, i.e. hand-washing.

Workers should avoid the shared use of tools, plant and equipment wherever possible.

4. Keep good records and act quickly if staff become unwell

Ensure your workers know what is expected of them should they feel unwell. It’s the employer’s responsibility to make sure they’re doing the right thing by their workers, including ensuring those with symptoms — and potentially the virus — do not come to work. There are hefty fines being introduced to those who get this wrong, so this one is really important.

You must collect records of any and all workers, subcontractors, customers and clients who are onsite for 15 minutes or longer. Business Victoria has a workers register template available, or if you are using Fergus, we highly recommend you make use of our Contact Tracing forms and onsite Health & Safety checklists. These are ready to go templates that you can start using now.

You’ll also need evidence that you are meeting restricted workforce obligations (under Step 1 this is 25% of baseline workforce or 5 workers), click here for documentation on who is counted as a worker.

  • You must document, as an attachment to your COVIDSafe Plan, how you are meeting the restricted workforce obligations
  • For construction sites, this includes evidence of baseline worker numbers, proposed restricted worker numbers and exactly how these numbers have been calculated for each site
  • You must retain and make available for inspection evidence of compliance with the daily workforce limits, including roster, time and attendance, payroll and other site attendance records.
5. Avoid interactions in close spaces

Move as much activity outside as possible, think toolbox talks, site inductions etc. For this restriction, it’s important to consider staggering shifts and break times to ensure appropriate social distancing within your team. Minimise the use of common areas.

Employees must also not carpool to and from work together (with the exception of apprentices with no other way of getting to work - advice is that they should sit in the back seat and wear a face covering.).

6. Create workforce bubbles

This is all about not blending shifts and limiting movement between sites. Workforce bubbles simply mean that Team A is always working with Team A, with no crossover to Team B. Initially, the guidelines stated workers are supposed to remain at the same one site for the duration of the lockdown. The guidelines now say for construction sites, all employees, supervisors and on-site specialists will be required to limit movement between sites and practice enhanced PPE and hygiene measures if working between sites.

For small-scale residential construction sites, workers movements must be limited, but supervisors and specialist trades can move between up to three sites per week, with a maximum of two per day subject to enhanced Covid safe practices.

Employees must also declare to their employer if they share accommodation with someone else also working in a high-risk workplace.

What are my options if we do not meet the criteria to work?

If you are unable to continue operating, or operating skeleton crews, through this period, we know you will be doing it tough right now. Take a good look at the four points under ‘how can I keep my business moving’ at the bottom of this article.

On August 13th, we also ran a live webinar with Jessica Bilston-Gourley, Director of Positive HR based in Victoria. Jessica and Dan, Fergus Founder and veteran Tradie, focused on areas of finances and HR, advice that may help you at this time. You can watch it On-Demand here.

What work can and can not be done?

Many industry bodies are still seeking clarification on what work exactly can be done verses not. We expect these bodies to communicate this as soon as it’s available.

Can I still access trades supplies?

An exemption has been made for hardware stores to remain open to tradespeople only. The general public will be required to click and collect with this set to relax a little under the Second Step. Hardware suppliers are making clear that they expect no disruption to supply.

Our friends at Reece have put together this blog on how they will be operating under Stage 4 restrictions. We expect other trades suppliers will update their customers on any changes to their operations.

How can I keep my business moving under Stage 4?

The announcement of an extension to the Stage 4 lockdown in Metropolitan Melbourne has put additional stress on many already struggling businesses. Aside from the formalities, there are a number of things you can do now that will help to remove some of the fear and uncertainty that many of you will be feeling.

If you can, try to shift your focus from the things you can’t control, to the things you can. We have a lot of content on the Fergus TradeHub to help you through these uncertain times.

If work is slumping or you have a little downtime, we strongly recommend you take some time to read our advice. There is information specifically on how to:

  • Take control of your finances
    Under these new restrictions you will need to work out what it is going to take to remain financially solvent. Visit our Tradehub for advice on getting to grips with your finances and cashflow forecasting.
  • Connect and communicate with customers Customers are your lifelines, but remember they too are affected by this. You will need to talk with your customers, work out what money you can realistically get in the door and what work will be continued when you come out the other side.
  • Demonstrate strong leadership for your team It’s times like this that really test your leadership skills. There will be hard decisions to make and possibly difficult conversations to be had. Be honest about the difficult situation you are in, but have a plan and communicate the plan with your team.
    The Fair Work Ombudsman website has some useful information about the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme, pay and leave entitlements, stand downs from work, workplace health and safety, and more.
  • Use this time to increase the efficiency of your business
    How many times have you uttered the words, if only we had time to do X? Use any downtime to take action, do the things you have put on the back-burner. Upskill yourself and your team and get your business in the best shape possible for when the city comes to life again.

For more information, please refer to the Victorian State Government’s Department of Health and Human Services website: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/stage-4-restrictions-covid-19

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