Construction Site

BY NICK DEEKS

Australian society has experienced a drastic shift in the past few weeks, as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on the way we live, work and interact with one another. The pandemic has had an impact on all industries and sectors, with the Australian government shutting down or restricting the operation of ‘non-essential’ services in an effort to contain the spread of the infectious disease.

At the time of writing, the construction industry is still considered to be an essential service, with sites around Australia continuing to operate with additional health precautions in place. However, with new restrictions being announced almost daily and the prospect of a full lockdown looming large, this could change at any moment.

It is imperative that the government allow construction sites to remain open and operative during this crisis. Employing over one million Australians and generating billions of dollars, the industry is critical to the functioning of the economy, which will suffer irreparable damage if construction sites shut down..

The flow-on effect of the construction sector keeps dozens of other industries alive, including quantity surveying, engineering, architectural, legal and financial professions to name a few. Employees in these industries have largely been able to work from home during the current pandemic, but depend largely on construction sites to be operational for them to maintain workflow. If allowed to continue, the collective output across these industries will give Australia a fighting chance at economic recovery following the pandemic.

Despite current border closures due to COVID-19, Australia’s population will continue to grow at a rapid rate, and it is the construction industry that builds the homes, workplaces and infrastructure– that is crucial to supporting this growth and contributing to our economy. Halting construction projects, even briefly, threatens the sustainability of our economy.

Of course, it is imperative that we all do our part to flatten the curve, and the industry takes the threat of COVID-19 very seriously. To this end, strict measures in line with government recommendations have been enforced on construction sites surrounding hygiene, social distancing and the separation of workers on meal breaks.

The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union is pushing for the implementation of 24-hour construction sites with three staggered eight-hour shifts, to reduce the amount of contact workers have with each other. In NSW and Victoria, hours have already been extended to meet these demands – NSW sites can now operate on weekends and public holidays, and inner-city Melbourne sites have been allocated temporary additional hours during the week and on weekends. These measures – which will likely be taken up by other states – will ensure that projects are still going ahead, and that staff can work across more days while abiding by social distancing safety precautions and regulations.

The industry has proven to be agile, inventive and forward-thinking in the face of crisis, finding ways in which to remain operational while respecting and protecting public health.

The parts of the construction industry that are able to work remotely are currently doing so. WT Partnership, for example, has had remote working systems in place for years and so our transition to working from home has been relatively smooth. However, due to the physical nature of construction work, there are large portions of the industry that are not able to operate remotely, and these are the parts that must be kept alive and functioning to help stimulate the economy in a time where that is most sorely needed.

We urge the Australian government to stay true to its word and allow construction to continue for the duration of this crisis so that our industry, its people and the economy all have a chance to survive.

Australian society has experienced a drastic shift in the past few weeks, as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on the way we live, work and interact with one another. The pandemic has had an impact on all industries and sectors, with the Australian government shutting down or restricting the operation of ‘non-essential’ services in an effort to contain the spread of the infectious disease.

At the time of writing, the construction industry is still considered to be an essential service, with sites around Australia continuing to operate with additional health precautions in place. However, with new restrictions being announced almost daily and the prospect of a full lockdown looming large, this could change at any moment.

It is imperative that the government allow construction sites to remain open and operative during this crisis. Employing over one million Australians and generating billions of dollars, the industry is critical to the functioning of the economy, which will suffer irreparable damage if construction sites shut down..

The flow-on effect of the construction sector keeps dozens of other industries alive, including quantity surveying, engineering, architectural, legal and financial professions to name a few. Employees in these industries have largely been able to work from home during the current pandemic, but depend largely on construction sites to be operational for them to maintain workflow. If allowed to continue, the collective output across these industries will give Australia a fighting chance at economic recovery following the pandemic.

Despite current border closures due to COVID-19, Australia’s population will continue to grow at a rapid rate, and it is the construction industry that builds the homes, workplaces and infrastructure– that is crucial to supporting this growth and contributing to our economy. Halting construction projects, even briefly, threatens the sustainability of our economy.

Of course, it is imperative that we all do our part to flatten the curve, and the industry takes the threat of COVID-19 very seriously. To this end, strict measures in line with government recommendations have been enforced on construction sites surrounding hygiene, social distancing and the separation of workers on meal breaks.

The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union is pushing for the implementation of 24-hour construction sites with three staggered eight-hour shifts, to reduce the amount of contact workers have with each other. In NSW and Victoria, hours have already been extended to meet these demands – NSW sites can now operate on weekends and public holidays, and inner-city Melbourne sites have been allocated temporary additional hours during the week and on weekends. These measures – which will likely be taken up by other states – will ensure that projects are still going ahead, and that staff can work across more days while abiding by social distancing safety precautions and regulations.

The industry has proven to be agile, inventive and forward-thinking in the face of crisis, finding ways in which to remain operational while respecting and protecting public health.

The parts of the construction industry that are able to work remotely are currently doing so. WT Partnership, for example, has had remote working systems in place for years and so our transition to working from home has been relatively smooth. However, due to the physical nature of construction work, there are large portions of the industry that are not able to operate remotely, and these are the parts that must be kept alive and functioning to help stimulate the economy in a time where that is most sorely needed.

We urge the Australian government to stay true to its word and allow construction to continue for the duration of this crisis so that our industry, its people and the economy all have a chance to survive.