Homeowners in Victoria are being warned to observe caution when engaging builders or tradespeople to work at their home.

As coronavirus cases in the state surge, the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) has stressed that the building industry remains operational as construction has been deemed by the Victorian Government (and governments in other states) to be an essential service.

This means builders, plumbers and other trades are still able to carry out work in homes, other buildings and on construction sites except in cases where the owner or tenant is self-isolating or in quarantine.

Nevertheless, the regulator warns that precautions should be observed.

Non-urgent work should be postponed where home occupants are unwell and have cold/flu-like symptoms.

An exception applies for work on matters which pose a risk to health and safety.

This includes blocked or burst pipes, blocked stormwater drains, roof leaks, collapsed balconies, ceilings or walls, faulty heaters, gas leaks, no hot water and non-functional smoke alarms.

For these jobs, homeowners are able to call tradespeople but must inform the recipient of the call that they are self-isolating so that the trade can take necessary precautions.

In the case of residents in the hard lockdown towers, a spokesperson for the VBA told Sourceable that they should contact the agency managing their tower to discuss the urgency of the building or plumbing work required.

If the work is urgent or an emergency, attending trades will follow all required safety precautions by maintaining proper hygiene, wearing personal protective equipment and following social distancing requirements.

For builders and tradespeople meanwhile, the VBA says they must comply with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidelines for the Building and Construction Industry, which have been endorsed by building unions and industry associations.

Specifically, tradespeople should:

  • sanitise their hands before entering a home and frequently while they are there
  • stay at least 1.5 metres from other people – or wear a mask if this is not possible
  • work with one person per four square metres of space, whenever possible
  • cover their nose and mouth with their upper arm, a flexed elbow or a tissue when coughing and sneezing, then wash their hands afterwards
  • wipe down their tools and equipment with alcohol wipes.

VBA’s State Building Surveyor, Andrew Cialini, said Victoria’s building practitioners were following recommended precautions when attending to jobs at people’s homes.

“Builders and plumbers are making important changes to their work practices to help reduce the risk of infection and keep everyone safe,” Cialini said.

“By handwashing more frequently, adopting physical distancing and wearing personal protective equipment, Victoria’s trades are keeping this vital industry open.

“Builders and plumbers understand the importance of workplace health and safety, and now more than ever, it’s important we all follow the government’s advice to keep people safe.”

Cialini said VBA inspectors are still inspecting building and plumbing work but are taking precautions to keep themselves and others safe.