Update: Restrictions to ease in Ballarat and Point Lonsdale, 2 week shutdown of construction industry

The Victorian Government has announced changes to restrictions in Ballarat and Point Lonsdale. A press statement and table of restrictions detailing these changes is attached.

As many will be aware, there were also recent changes announced of a snap 14 day shutdown of the construction industry within ‘Restricted Areas’ – being the municipal areas subject to lockdown directions.

A summary of those changes are as follows.

City of Ballarat

The lockdown in Ballarat will end from 11:59pm 22 September. Ballarat has moved to the settings it was under before this lockdown.

This is consistent with the settings in the rest of regional Victoria, in accordance with our previous update. A copy of that update is attached.

Restaurants and cafes are required to conduct residence checks of patrons attending for seated service to ensure they do not reside in metropolitan Melbourne or the City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire and Mitchell Shire.

Point Lonsdale

From 11:59pm 22 September, those areas of Point Lonsdale located within the City of Greater Geelong are able to follow the same rules that apply to the Borough of Queenscliffe.

This means that the settings to apply in these areas are consistent with those in regional Victoria, and this area will be released from the lockdown that will affect the remainder of the City of Greater Geelong.

Restrictions on operation of construction industry

As has been heavily publicised, the restrictions imposed on the construction industry are due to apparent issues with compliance with COVIDSafe practices across the industry following a ‘compliance blitz’, as well as high case numbers in the industry and arising from construction sites.

Accordingly, a snap shutdown of construction activities was announced with effect from 11:59pm on Monday 20 September 2021.

Construction activities are defined very broadly to include any work premises at which ‘civil works, building or construction activities take place’.

In accordance with these changes, employers must not operate a work premises that is a construction site within ‘restricted areas’, being those areas that are currently in lockdown – including Metropolitan Melbourne, Ballarat, Mitchell Shire, the Surf Coast and Geelong.

From tomorrow, Point Lonsdale and Ballarat will be excluded from the restricted areas and therefore excluded from the industry shutdown.

The shutdown means that all construction sites are to be shut down immediately, with a grace period of approximately two (2) days (based on State officials) permitted for workers to ensure that sites are safe before ceasing work.

There are limited exceptions where a worker is permitted to attend the work premises to:

  • make a site which has or is to be shut down safe and secure;
  • respond to an emergency;
  • perform urgent and essential work to protect the health and safety of workers or members of the public;
  • protect assets and infrastructure, provided that the worker is only permitted to enter and remain upon the work premises for the period of time necessary to respond to those circumstances.

Specific exceptions also apply for fully exempt state critical infrastructure projects, such as crucial water and sewerage or water treatment works managed by the Department of Land, Water and Planning or by water authorities, and safety and essential maintenance works on all public infrastructure.

At this stage it is proposed that the industry will return to site on 5 October, subject to additional requirements to demonstrate compliance with the DHHS Directions, including compliance with the vaccine mandate for workers.

For construction work for an existing business, i.e. renovations or refurbishments, they must also cease. The only works that may be conducted are for essential maintenance, which is defined as ‘critical maintenance and safety works including to satisfy environmental obligations’.

Construction sites in regional Victoria can continue to operate, subject to existing restrictions and COVIDSafe practices, including the following limits:

  1. Small-scale construction sites in regional Victoria must not operate with more than 5 workers at any one time (excluding the site supervisor).
  2. An employer may only operate a work premises that is an early stage land development site if there are 10 workers (or fewer) per hectare on the work premises at any one time.
  3. An employer must not operate a large-scale construction site in excess of 25 percent of the large-scale construction baseline daily workforce or five workers, whichever is higher.

Vaccine mandate for teacher and early childhood care

The Deputy Premier has also announced yesterday that teachers and early childhood care workers will have to be vaccinated under new public health directions. A press statement is attached.

Staff will be required to have a first dose by 18 October or have a booking within one week, with full vaccination required by 29 November unless a medical exemption applies.

Directions have not yet been issued to put this mandate in place.

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.