Eleven unions and industry groups throughout the construction sector in Victoria and Australia have laid down the law to workers and employers regarding coronavirus safety, stressing that all must act to keep sites safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 at workplaces.

In a joint statement, the groups have sent a ‘strong message’ to industry players to ‘treat this situation very seriously and with the highest importance by adhering to all of the recommended safety procedures’.

The group includes the Air Conditioning & Mechanical Contractors’ Association (AMCA), Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), Civil Contractors Federation (CCF), Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), Electrical Trades Union (ETU), Master Builders Victoria (MBAV), Master Plumbers, National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA), Plumbing and Pipe Trades Employees Union (PPTEU), Property Council Victoria and the Urban Development Institute of Australia [Victoria] (UDIA).

“The united group stress the need to follow appropriate measures and guidelines which stipulate strict hygiene practices, social distancing and separation of workers on meal breaks, in addition to other measures, to ensure sites can be kept safe and stay open,” the joint statement read.

“Employer groups and unions have worked together to develop guidelines in line with government recommendations and they should be adhered to immediately and followed dutifully by all employers and employees.”

To help employers and workers understand their responsibilities, two sets of guidelines have been issued.

Under the MBAV guidelines, workers and employers should consider several areas.

These include:

  • Observing good personal hygiene, such as regular hand washing, daily washes of body and clothes, binning cigarettes, avoiding spitting, avoiding personal contract and avoiding touching your face with hands
  • Specific measures which individuals are legally required to take under the Victorian Government’s declared state of emergency, such as self-quarantining measures, staying home if unwell, social distancing and allowing vulnerable workers to take leave of work from home.
  • Workplace hygiene practices, such as properly cleaning and maintaining common areas such as lunch sheds, cleaning toilets, reducing the number of workers using site amenities at any one time and training workers in expected practices in common areas.
  • Specific measures on use of personal hoists or lifts, such as travelling to direct floors, promoting the use of stairs, scheduling times for hoist use, avoiding large congregations of workers waiting at hoist lift/entry points, rotating house operators, regular cleaning of hoists and provision of hand sanitiser in hoists.
  • Several others matters.

The CMFEU guidelines, meanwhile, specify workplace measures such as:

  • Additional cleaning/decontamination on-site.
  • Separation of meal breaks and work groups to achieve maximum personal space.
  • Provision of suitable gloves where workers are in close proximity for work or site access purposes.
  • Provision of hand sanitiser in all hoists, amenities and areas/levels of the site.
  • Regular – if necessary, daily – toolbox meetings to provide up-to-date information.

As well, the union guidelines outline what should happen where workers feel unwell, after test results are received and situations where sites should shut down, remain open or reopen.

The eleven organisations say they will continue to follow both state and federal guidelines.

They say workers and employers should work together to ensure safety on site.

“As vital constituents of the economy, it is critical that all stakeholders of the building and construction industry work together to ensure the protection of employers, workers, their families and our community,” the group said