Breaking: Melbourne construction to enter 'pilot light' phase in Stage Four lockdowns

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced tightened restrictions for three categories representing the entire construction industry as metropolitan Melbourne enters Stage Four restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press conference this afternoon, Andrews revealed that the construction industry is permitted to continue operation under new measures, which will significantly reduce site contact and production.

Large-scale commercial works will be limited to only having 25 percent of their workforce on-site at any given time and residential 'domestic homes' sites will be limited to a maximum of five people on-site at any time in what he's calling 'pilot light' levels of productivity.

From a press release:

"Our construction sector, the lifeblood of our economy, will also move to pilot light levels. This will allow the industry to keep ticking – while also making sure we limit the number of people on-site.

"For major construction sites, that means the absolute minimum required for safety – but no more than 25 percent of the normal workforce on-site. Small-scale construction will be limited to a maximum of five people on-site.

"To date, we've almost halved the number of people on-site on some of our biggest government projects. Now we're going to go through project by project, line by line to make sure they are reduced to the practical minimum number of workers.

"Retail stores will be permitted to operate 'click and collect' contactless transactions and delivery services and hardware stores will remain open on-site for tradespeople only.

"Workplaces that are continuing to operate will also have additional requirements including extra PPE, staggering shifts, staggering breaks, health declarations and support for sick workers to ensure they stay home.

The changes will be enforceable and employers will be required to ensure they're doing the right thing by their workers, including ensuring those with symptoms – and potentially the virus – do not come to work. Andrews assures that work will be done in consultation with industry and unions, understands the measures will have real and heavy consequences for businesses, workers and families."

Andrews concedes this will be a significant challenge for the industry. "Honestly, this will be an imperfect process," he said. "The decision of in which column to put millions of Victorian jobs – millions of Victorian workers – could never be clear cut. And, as much as we like, there is no playbook when it comes to a pandemic. But what it clear is that if we don't do this now, if this doesn't work, then we'll need a much longer list of complete shutdowns... This will be hard. It'll be frustrating. It'll be confusing. For a lot of workers and their families, it'll be heartbreaking. But the only way to get people back to work and businesses back open is by making these tough decisions – and Victorians abiding by them."

Victorian businesses that have to close must do so by 11:59pm on Wednesday under the restrictions. Those remaining open will have until 11:59pm on Friday to enact a COVIDSafe plan.