Covid-19 Victoria: Compliance blitz on construction sites, priority vaccines for workers

Victoria has launched a month-long enforcement blitz across a particularly risky industry to try and stop Covid-19 spreading.

Victorian construction workers will get priority access to Covid jabs as the government ramps up compliance at worksites to stop the spread of the virus.

Treasurer Tim Pallas announced the “enforcement blitz” on compliance with the chief health officer’s directions for the construction industry on Monday.

There are growing concerns about the rapid spread of the virus across worksites still allowed to operate during lockdown.

Mr Pallas said it was a “very serious state of affairs” and every person employed in the industry had to take it seriously.

Otherwise, the permitted worker status of the industry could be at risk.

He said the average case linked to a construction site lived about 20km away, compared to about 4km for other outbreaks connected to venues such as supermarkets.

The Treasurer said the increased distance had sparked the crackdown as it meant there was a greater opportunity for the virus to spread.

“The construction industry is young, it’s mobile, as a workforce, they often visit multiple

sites in any given week and they return home to all areas of metropolitan Melbourne, particularly, in the north and western suburbs of Melbourne,” Mr Pallas said.

“That represents a higher risk of spread of the virus.”

Over the next week 20,000 Pfizer and unlimited AstraZeneca appointments will be released to constructions workers.

“We’ll be stepping up compliance and making sure that the industry, in all its different manifestations, recognises their obligations with regards to the chief health officer’s orders,” Mr Pallas said.

He said 50 teams, made up of authorised officers, WorkSafe inspectors and Victorian Building Authority employees would be out each day to make sure constructions sites and workers were doing the right thing.

“Given the health risks, the joint operation will have a zero tolerance,” Mr Pallas said.

“The time for warnings and admonishment is over.

“This industry needs to take these responsibilities seriously, they need to recognise that the rights and opportunities that they get as permitted workers come with considerable obligations to the community.”

He said industry associations and unions had been working with the government to develop the plan for priority vaccinations and zero tolerance enforcement blitz.

“Each construction site has a Covid safe plans they are required to put in place, they know what they are,” Mr Pallas said.

“They go through things such as appropriate mask wearing, appropriate social distancing, and applying the requirements of a safe workplace in a Covid environment.”

The announcement came as Victoria recorded 473 new local Covid-19 cases on Monday – the highest daily spike of the latest outbreak.

Covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar said 120 cases had now been linked to the Panorama construction site in Box Hill, highlighting the risk of spread the exposures linked to the industry posed.

Originally published as Victoria announces enforcement blitz on ‘at risk’ constructions sites

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