Maintaining health and safety on construction sites and other premises
Site inspections and media reports have confirmed that some construction sites have not implemented appropriate safety measures aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
The VBA reminds building and plumbing industry professionals that they must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people working on site whenever possible. Social distancing will help save lives.
Practitioner safety and obligations
Registered building practitioners have an obligation under regulation 265 of the Building Regulations 2018 to carry out work in a competent manner and to a professional standard. The VBA considers that this obligation encompasses a duty to provide a safe workplace for all people on site.
COVID-19 is recognised as an occupational health and safety risk that must be actively managed by ensuring that everyone on a worksite – whether workers, other contractors or visitors – practises social distancing at all times (except where there is a valid occupational health and safety reason preventing them from doing so). This requirement applies when staff and contractors are carrying out work and taking meal or rest breaks.
If a worker at a site is placed at risk of illness (in this case, contracting COVID-19) due to working in close proximity to others, the registered practitioner responsible for that worker may be committing an offence under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.
Resources for managing health and safety on site
The following guidelines are designed to assist the industry with its understanding of additional measures that can be taken to maintain safety on construction sites.
The State Government has issued a best-practice document for managing large building and construction sites in the COVID-19 environment. Industry professionals are encouraged to review this guidance and implement appropriate measures on site to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the construction industry.
Further guidelines for large sites, developed by a working party of trade unions and industry associations, are available from Master Builders.
Houses and small sites
The Housing Industry Association has published guidelines for housing sites where small numbers of people are working.
The VBA’s role
VBA inspectors are continuing to audit and inspect building and plumbing work across Victoria. If they detect non-compliance with government directives designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, resulting in a breach of a registered building practitioner’s duty to provide a safe workplace, the VBA will consider taking disciplinary action.
Disciplinary proceedings may include immediate suspension on public interest grounds under section 180A(2A) of the Building Act, while the VBA commences a disciplinary inquiry into the practitioner’s ongoing fitness to continue in the industry. However, given that this is a period of adjustment for all Victorians, the VBA is likely to issue a first-and-final warning for anything other than severe breaches.
Providing a safe workplace for all
Now, more than ever, it is essential that building practitioners comply with their obligations to provide a safe workplace for everyone on site. As we move through this unprecedented time, the VBA urges practitioners to comply with social distancing directives on building sites wherever possible and implement best practices for managing construction sites.
The VBA remains committed to protecting the safety and wellbeing of our people, those in the industry and the Victorian community.