The Australian Constructors Association, Engineers Australia, National Precast Concrete Association of Australia and Australian flexible Pavement Association have welcomed the easing of restrictions on construction activity across Greater Sydney.
On Saturday, the New South Wales Government eased the restrictions imposed on construction sites across Greater Sydney, where construction workers had a limit of up to two workers for indoor services and five workers for outdoor services in residential construction, that too if residents had vacated the area.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, Industry and Trade John Barilaro announced on Saturday that unoccupied construction sites can now resume work with 50 per cent capacity with COVID-safe protocols. The state government also introduce minimum vaccination requirements for workers from the eight worst affected local government areas (LGAs), allowing workers from the affected LGAs to return to work if vaccinated.
Australian Constructors Association Chief Executive Jon Davies said the announcement over the weekend follows weeks of collaborative discussions between industry associations, unions and government.
“It demonstrates good outcomes can be achieved when everyone is aligned,” Mr Davies told Roads & Infrastructure.
“The trust placed in the construction industry to operate in a COVID safe manner is a responsibility we are not taking lightly – with nothing left to chance. Already considered one of the strictest operating environments, construction sites are conducting rapid antigen testing to further add to the existing comprehensive COVID protocols. We are confident rapid antigen testing will enable us to detect potential risks and prevent the spread of the disease,” Mr Davies said.
Minister Barilaro said NSW was currently trialling rapid antigen testing which when approved by NSW Health, would be used as an alternative to a negative PCR test. Under current rules, workers from the affected LGAs are required to produce evidence that they have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, or one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at least three weeks before attending work.
“Rapid antigen testing is part of the solution, but the ultimate goal is to get more workers vaccinated. Our approach to vaccinating the construction industry is to encourage and facilitate. We are working with the Department of Health to improve access by enabling vaccinations at construction sites,” Mr Davies added.
The Australian flexible Pavement Association also welcomed NSW Government’s announcement.
“This pragmatic response is considered to balance the current health concerns, supply chain and economic impacts to businesses of all sizes arising from the outbreak,” Lise Sperling, Executive Director of Australian flexible Pavement Association in NSW and ACT said.
“Safety is the highest priority for our industry. AfPA members are committed to ensure all safety practices and standards are upheld,” she added.
National Precast, the peak body for the Australian precast concrete industry, was another association welcoming the decision yesterday, with CEO Sarah Bachman noting the importance of supply continuity.
“While lockdowns may be deemed necessary to minimise spread of COVID-19, the construction industry underpins the economy and safe COVID-19 practices can easily be implemented and enforced,” she said.
“Equally, continuity of supplies are vital to allow works to continue. In the case of precast, manufacturing is undertaken in controlled factory environments, with isolated workstations and COVID-safe practices in place.”
Engineers Australia is another industry body whose members were directly impacted by the halt. Engineers Australia CEO Dr Bronwyn Evans had previously warned of the financial consequences of halting construction projects beyond the initially planned two weeks.
“Construction will play a critical role in maintaining our economy and supporting the engineering profession, through COVID and beyond. The NSW Government’s measures allow for a staged return to construction activity that balances public safety, social wellbeing, and economic health,” Ms Evans told Roads & Infrastructure yesterday.
The construction sector in NSW is worth over $700 million a week and employs a quarter of a million people, making it a major part of the state’s economy.
The eased restrictions will be a relief to construction sector workers, who will be prioritised for vaccination at a special clinic at Sydney Olympic Park on Sunday, August 15.
- Construction workers from high-risk Sydney LGAs can resume work if vaccinated
- Construction in Greater Sydney to reopen, excluding eight LGAs
- Industry responds to NSW construction sector pause