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Quarrying workplace permissions explained amid Stage 4 COVID-19 restrictions


In a week of industry confusion, the Victorian Government has released an amended version of its Stage 4 COVID-19 restrictions for workplaces in metropolitan Melbourne.

The Victorian Government has enforced Stage 4 restrictions across metropolitan Melbourne, and Stage 3 restrictions for regional Victoria.

Only “permitted work premises” can operate under Stage 4 restrictions unless an exemption is applied.

According to the Victorian Government’s document on Stage 4 work restrictions, employees will only be allowed on site “if it is not reasonably practicable for the employee to work from home and the employer and employee comply with the Directions currently in force, including the Workplace Directions and the Permitted Worker Permit Scheme Directions.”

In the mining sector, both non-metallic mineral mining and quarrying is permitted. Coal mining, oil and gas extraction, metal ore mining and petroleum production are also considered “permitted work premises”. Initial doubts were cast over metropolitan Melbourne-based support services to the mining and extractive industries but the Victorian Government has since clarified that support businesses will remain open.

“Ancillary and support businesses are able to open on-site to ensure the necessary production, supply, manufacture, repair, maintenance, cleaning, security, wholesale, distribution, transportation or sale of equipment, goods or services required for the operations of a Permitted Work Premises, or for Closed Work Premises where there are safety or environmental obligations,” the Victorian Government stated.

“The business cannot operate on-site for any other purpose.”

This means the manufacturing of cement and lime, building supplies to support construction, fabricated metal products, glass and glass products, heavy trucks and transport equipment, specialised machinery and equipment, goods to support critical infrastructure public works, and spare parts critical to continuity of service are permitted.

Workplaces that stay open must also have a COVID Safe Plan in place. The COVID Safe Plan is required to map out actions to prevent COVID-19 in the workplace, the level of personal protective equipment required for the workforce, how the business would prepare and respond to a COVID-19 case, and how the business will meet the requirements set out by the Victorian Government.

“You need a company-wide COVID Safe Plan that can address all protocols for all your sites. These protocols must be rolled out to all sites and workers and a copy of the COVID Safe Plan must be on-site for an authorised compliance officer to inspect,” advice from Cement Concrete Aggregates Australia (CCAA) read.

A spokesperson from Earth Resources told Quarry it is not mandatory for quarries and mines in regional areas to have a COVID Safe plan.

“Developing a COVID Safe Plan is recommended for all businesses in regional Victoria but is only mandatory for high risk workplaces such as abattoirs and distribution centres, except those with fewer than five employees. For all operating businesses in metropolitan Melbourne, except those with less than five employees, it is mandatory to have a COVID Safe Plan in place,” the spokesperson said.

“It is not mandatory for regional quarries and mines to have a COVIDSafe Plan in place but most have undertaken appropriate planning and extensive risk management plans are in place should there be any coronavirus cases.”

A dedicated Industry Coordination Centre has been set up within the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions to support businesses and consider ‘grey area’ cases to determine if businesses can safely operate under Stage 4 restrictions. Business Victoria can be contacted on 13 22 15.

Extractive industry comments

James Sorahan, the Victorian executive director of the Minerals Council of Australia, said while some non-essential works in the mining sector will be put on hold, Melbourne logistics and distribution services are continuing to run.

“Melbourne port, logistics and distribution services are able to operate in Melbourne and regional Victoria under the Stage 4 restrictions. The industry is monitoring any impacts,” he said.

“The Stage 4 restrictions apply only to metropolitan Melbourne and not to regional Victoria where mines and most explorers are located,” Sorahan added.

“Mines are operating in a safe way with strict COVID hygiene rules and protocols applying industry-wide which limit interactions with the community.

“Some non-essential works have been put on hold by choice to minimise safety risks, but this is not impacting on production. All refining and minerals processing can continue at site and in Melbourne.”

Cement heavyweight Adbri has also commented on Victoria’s restrictions, saying that protecting its people and the community is its priority.

“We understand the Victorian Government’s decision, and will play our part to protect our people and the community at large as our first priority,” Adbri chief executive officer Nick Miller said.

“We are committed to working through this period with our customers while co-operating with the government and health authorities to fight COVID-19 and keep our community safe. To date, all of our sites have been fully operational and we have had no confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the employees of Adbri or its subsidiaries.”

The CCAA has stated order takers and allocators can work on-site under Stage 4 restrictions.

“Our industry falls into the ‘OPEN’ with a COVID Safe Plan category so there are no explicit restrictions on how many people can be ‘on site’ or what ancillary providers we need to manage the business and keep the site safe,” CCAA’s advice read.

“Provided your business explicitly addresses how order takers and allocators are being managed within the COVID Safe Plan (with the intention to minimise people on site safely) and they have a Work Permit, you are compliant.”

The CCAA also said civil construction sites are not subject to the additional restrictions.

“Civil construction sites, like all construction sites, are required to have a High Risk COVID Safe Plan. They are not subject to added restrictions because they are low risk activities, usually in the open air. Public and private civil works will be treated the same under Stage 4 restrictions.”

CCAA state director Victoria/Tasmania Brian Hauser told Quarry CCAA has been working alongside to state government to ensure the sector has minimum impact. 

 “CCAA has worked tirelessly with the Victorian Government over the past weeks to ensure the extractive industry remains OPEN (with a COVID Safe Plan) with the minimum of restrictions under Stage 4,” he said. It’s a testament to how the industry has embraced COVID Safe practices since the very start of the pandemic, and the very low industry risk as a result, that we have been able to keep the sector safely operational.” 

 “A COVID Safe Plan is central to ensure we keep our people in our industry safe and also demonstrate to our customers, the community and government that we can continue to safely supply critical construction materials to rebuild Victoria, protect lives and create jobs.” 

Institute of Quarrying Australia (IQA) chief executive officer Kylie Fahey said the IQA is helping workplaces implement COVID Safe practices and plans.

“The IQA is continuing to support industry to develop and implement COVID Safe work practices and plans,” she said.

“Resources and training continue to be provided to support workplaces implement the requirements.”

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