Mounting concern for the health and safety of construction workers has been voiced following confirmed cases of Coronavirus on project sites, with an industry association questioning why sites are still open for business.
Prime minister Scott Morrison said he believed construction would remain as an essential service when questioned if there was a phase it could be considered “non essential”, on Friday.
“I don't believe so, no — it is essential,” Morrison said.
Morrison said that social distancing could be “practiced on construction sites, whether they’re residential or commercial.”
“This keeps the economy going. It keeps people in work... [The] premiers and I have discussed this, this is an important part of the economy,” Morrison said on The Fox 101.9 interview.
“There will have to be some changes on sites, no doubt... Just like mining, and resources and manufacturing, and all of these important jobs. We’ve got to keep the economy running.”
Builders Collective of Australia president Phil Dwyer said maintaining social distancing on construction sites was virtually impossible, with the sector stuck between the “devil and the deep blue sea”.
“Because how on earth do you create social distancing on a building site? It’s very difficult in so many circumstances to maintain that 1.5 metre distance away from everyone else on a site.
“There’s more to this than just the economy, there’s the safety of all the people that work within the industry.”
Dwyer said the collective, which represents small- to-medium sized builders, had been calling for a fortnight shut down over the past few weeks, but with things changing so rapidly over the past few days, this now seems too short.
“We have this ‘she'll be right attitude’, which we've had in the industry for far too long... And that culture flows through to the pandemic problems that we've got now.”
Dwyer said talk of a shut down had caused angst for a lot of people in the industry.
“Because if construction sites close down — what does happen to the economy?
“What happens to all those fellows who have mortgages? Because they wouldn't get paid.”
New South Wales and Melbourne City last week announced it would be extending construction hours on sites.
New safety measures from peak industry body Master Builders Association and the CFMEU have been introduced to keep sites safe in a bid to support the industry during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Master Builders Victoria took to social media to reaffirm it does not support a shutdown of the building and construction industry, insisting that the sector remains open under the guidance of chief medical officers at state and federal levels.
“Everyone should understand what a shutdown would mean; Building and construction is our state’s largest full-time employer, and our industry contributes over 45 per cent of Victoria’s tax revenue.
“Social distancing may be slowing work down, but slower work is better than no work.”
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has warned stage four coronavirus restrictions are looming in the state.