The New South Wales government and the City of Melbourne have extended working hours on construction sites in a bid to protect jobs and limit the economic impact of COVID-19.
Under the new rules, construction hours in NSW will be extended to weekends and public holidays. The City of Melbourne is proposing an extra hour of work each morning and evening on weekdays to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Weekend building hours in Melbourne will also be extended: Three more on Saturday and six hours (of limited activity) on Sundays. Finishing trades such as painting and plastering, that do not have a significant impact on residential amenity, will be extended until 10pm.
Currently, construction hours permitted by local law in the municipality of Melbourne are 7am–7pm on weekdays and 8am–3pm on Saturdays. Council approval is required for work outside these hours.
The building sector across the country has been operating under COVID-19 protocols, which include: maintaining social distancing; staggering shift start times and meal breaks; moving office staff offsite; observing new hygiene and cleaning regimes; and employing digital tools to limit face-to-face meetings.
NSW Planning and Public Spaces minister Rob Stokes said that spreading out the construction work across more days of the week will facilitate social distancing on construction sites and minimise the potential for lost productivity.
“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.
According to Stokes, there are almost 400,000 people employed in the property and construction industry in NSW.
In Victoria, the proposed extended hours are limited to the city of Melbourne. Temporary measures have been introduced to help fast-track construction projects, save jobs, and help limit the economic impact of coronavirus, according to the city municipality.
City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the extended working hours will target 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.”
The temporary arrangements are to be reviewed on a monthly basis, said Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood.
He also noted 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.”
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.