Work hours on construction sites in New South Wales and the City of Melbourne are being extended in a bid to support the industry during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The NSW government introduced rules on Thursday allowing construction sites across the state to operate on weekends and public holidays.
Planning and Public Spaces minister Rob Stokes said the move allows workers to abide by social distancing rules while minimising the potential for lost productivity by enabling building work to be spread across more days of the week.
“The construction and development sectors, which make up almost 10 per cent of NSW’s economy, will be vital in keeping people in jobs and keeping investment flowing over the coming weeks and months,” Stokes said.
“We’re doing what we can to support the industry in line with the current medical advice by extending weekday construction site operating hours to weekends and public holidays.”
“In NSW there are almost 400,000 people employed in the property and construction industry and we are committed to doing everything we can to keep each of them in work, but most importantly, to keep them safe and healthy,” Stokes said.
Compliance with the order would be monitored and reviewed if there were found to be any adverse impacts on the community or from a public health perspective.
In Victoria, the extended hours are limited at this stage to the City of Melbourne, with temporary measures introduced in the municipality to help fast-track construction projects, save jobs and help limit the economic impact of coronavirus.
Lord mayor Sally Capp said the changes will allow the extension of working hours on building sites for commercial, large residential and mixed-use developments.
“The changes will allow the construction industry to work safely and remain viable during these challenging times - but they will not allow construction activity around the clock,” Capp said.
“We understand these changes may affect residents with a potential increase in noise, however we are attempting to strike a balance between the needs of residents and the need to keep people in jobs. We recognise these extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.”
Capp said health and safety measures necessitated by Covid-19—such as social distancing—are impacting the productivity of the construction industry.
Deputy lord mayor Arron Wood said the temporary arrangements will be reviewed on a monthly basis.
“We’re working to balance the need to save jobs in the construction sector by allowing different ways of working and still protecting public safety and amenity.
“I want to stress that these changes are temporary,” Wood said.
In response to Covid-19, federal and state governments have acknowledged the construction industry as an essential service and determined that it should remain in operation for the time being.
Construction sites are subject to increased health and safety precautions including limiting the number of workers on site, adhering to social distancing requirements, following personal hygiene guidelines and regular cleaning of equipment.
Local law in the municipality of Melbourne currently allows for construction activity to occur between the hours of 7am and 7pm on weekdays and between 8am and 3pm on Saturdays, with council approval required for work outside these hours.
Working on a case-by-case basis, the City of Melbourne proposes to allow an extra hour of work each morning and evening on weekdays.
Three hours of extra work will be allowed on Saturdays and six hours on of limited activity on Sunday.
In addition, finishing trades that do not have a significant impact on residential amenity (such as painting and plastering) will be extended until 10pm.
Wood said that building sites would be monitored to ensure compliance with regulations.
"We reserve the right to issue fines or revoke construction permits for sites that don’t follow the rules outlined in their construction permit," Wood said.
“In turn, we seek commitment from the industry to ensure that everything possible will be done to preserve residential amenity and protect workers.”