22 September 2021

Construction industry shutdown in Victoria

This article was written by Amy Munro, Will Connolly, and Irma Glinac.

Further to our recent article, ‘New construction industry restrictions in Victoria’, which discussed the additional restrictions recently imposed on construction sites, the Victorian Government has now imposed an industry-wide shutdown of the sector.[1]

The shutdown restrictions are contained in the new Workplace (Additional Industry Obligations) Directions (No 45) (Additional Workplace Directions) which came into effect from 11:59pm on Tuesday, 21 September 2021. We note that the shutdown restrictions were first contained in the previous version of the Additional Workplace Directions (No 44) which came into effect from 11:59 on Monday 20 September 2021. The current Workplace Additional Directions contain slight differences to the shutdown rules as originally published, so it is important that you check the current version, which we summarise below.

Who does the shutdown apply to?

The shutdown applies to construction sites metropolitan Melbourne and other local government areas that are subject to lockdown restrictions, which are the City of Ballarat, City of Geelong, Mitchell Shire and the Surf Coast Shire.

What is a construction site?

A ‘construction site’ is any work premises at which civil works, building or construction activities take place’.[2] This should be construed broadly and includes the construction, alteration, repair, restoration, maintenance, extension, demolition or dismantling of buildings, structures or works forming part of the land, as well as the installation of any fittings on land, site clearance, site restoration and landscaping.

How long will the shutdown last?

The Premier has announced that the shutdown will be for two weeks, from 11:59pm on Monday 20 September 2021. This means workers can return to site from Tuesday 5 October 2021.

Are there any exceptions?

The shutdown does not apply to:

  1. Construction sites which are a ‘Fully Exempt State Critical Infrastructure Project”.

State Critical Infrastructure Projects are specific projects listed by the Government.[3]

The concept of a “Fully Exempt” State Critical Infrastructure Project is a new concept introduced for the purposes of the lockdown and is a subset of State Critical Infrastructure Projects (including safety and essential maintenance works for all public infrastructure).

For Fully Exempt State Critical Infrastructure Projects, workers are able to move to and from Regional Victoria to work.[4]

  1. Workers who are required to attend work premises to:
    1. make a site which has or is to be shut down safe and secure; or
    2. respond to an emergency; or
    3. are required to perform urgent and essential work to:
      1. Protect the health and safety of workers or members of the public; or
      2. Protect assets and infrastructure

Provided that, in any of the above circumstances, the worker is only permitted to enter and remain on the work premises for the period of time necessary to respond to those circumstances.

What restrictions apply to sites that meet an exception?

Any work premises which is permitted to operate by virtue of one of the exceptions must still comply with other restrictions as detailed in our previous article (with the exception that as mentioned above, for Fully Exempt State Critical Infrastructure Projects, workers are able to move to and from Regional Victoria to work). 

If you require advice on the application of any restrictions or exceptions to your project, our construction and employment teams are able to assist you.

 

[1] https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/construction-industry-shut-down-two-weeks.

[2] Additional Workplace Directions, section 9(18).

[3] See the State Critical Infrastructure List – Restricted Area and the State Critical Infrastructure List - Regional, as updated from time to time and available at https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-sector-guidance-construction

[4] Additional Workplace Directions, section 7(39).

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