Australia’s quarrying and heavy construction materials bodies have responded to the industry’s position amid the COVID-19 outbreak that has seen many sectors of Australia’s workforce shut down.
The Institute of Quarrying Australia (IQA) and Cement, Concrete & Aggregates Australia (CCAA) have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing advice about where the industry sits going forward.
Under current federal and state government legislation, the construction industry is considered an ‘essential’ business. However, bans to domestic and international fly-in fly-out travel has caused events to be rescheduled.
“To support Australian and global strategies aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, the IQA Board has made the decision to postpone all IQA face to face events scheduled up to and including 31st July 2020,” IQA’s chief executive officer Kylie Fahey said.
“The IQA will continue to respond to any new directions by authorities regarding ways to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”
There are fears the construction industry may face a government-enforced shutdown in the coming weeks.
Cement, Concrete & Aggregates Australia chief executive officer Ken Slattery told Quarry the construction industry is capable of continuing operations if government allows it to and the correct safety guidelines are followed.
“Governments need to consider the implications of not having a construction industry working at a high level,” he said. “The construction industry employs about 1.1 million people throughout the country and all construction projects rely on quarry products, concrete and cement. So if we’re not (operating), there is essentially a million people that are unable to work.
“The economic implications of that are – as you can imagine – very significant. We’re talking almost 10 per cent of economic activity being related to construction. It’s absolutely vital for the health of the economy that people continue be allowed to stay at work and to allow support packages like we have recently seen from government to be funded.”
CCAA published new guidelines on its website providing information specifically on what practices the heavy construction materials industry should adopt during the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes a minimisation of site visits, creating a 1.5-metre distance between each workstation, allocating only one operator for all plant and equipment operations and extra sanitisation amongst others.
“The document describes the interface that exists between the industry and its customers as well as some internal protocols which should be applied to minimise any risk of transmission,” Slattery said. “The guideline has been published to support the health and safety of employees and customers but also to support our objective of having the construction industry and its supply chains continue to be recognised as essential industries.
“So while we are protecting our people, the industry certainly is capable of continuing with good practices, so we urge everyone in the industry to consider the Guidelines.”
The IQA recommends the following steps to ensure workers prevent the spread of COVID-19:
- Nominate a staff member to regularly monitor all updates provided by SafeWork Australia, the relevant state health authority, and State and Federal Governments.
- Develop and enforce company-specific safe work systems with consideration of the advice provided by the aforementioned authorities.
- Actively promote COVID-19 risk management techniques, social distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene, and increased frequency of cleaning cabins and common areas.
- Educate workers on actions being implemented, and advise what repercussions will occur if actions are not followed.
- Provide supervisors with a method to report controls being implemented incorrectly.
- Restrict employee travel, limit visitors to site and stagger shift start and finish times (where practical) to ensure social distancing can be maintained.
- Contact your state health authority immediately if you become aware of a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 among your workforce.
INDUSTRY CONFERENCE POSTPONED
The IQA and the CCAA have also elected to postpone the next joint Construction Materials Industry Conference – CMIC20 – which was originally scheduled for September this year at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre.
“The CMIC20 conference organising committee today decided not to proceed with CMIC20, the heavy construction materials industry’s premier bi-ennial event,” Slattery said. “In reaching this decision, the organising committee were mindful of the importance of keeping our industry’s employees safe. The uncertainty over how long government rules limiting large gatherings and events such as this has also contributed to the decision.
“Originally planned to be held in September 2020, the event will be rescheduled to a time when we are more certain that the high standards that people have come to expect of CMIC conferences can be assured.”