Australia’s CFMEU union has called on contractors and builders to follow enhanced health and safety and hygiene practices to combat the spread of coronavirus and ensure that construction work can continue.

The union’s National Construction Secretary, Dave Noonan, said a shut-down of construction “would be devastating to workers and the economy. The key to keeping workers safe and the industry functioning and able to support all its people is enacting stringent health and safety protocols immediately.”

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In a statement on 24 March, Noonan said; “Maintaining the health and safety of construction workers is our absolute priority during this pandemic crisis and we need the entire industry to act responsibly and collectively to minimise the risk of infection on worksites.”

CFMEU’s construction division represents 100,000 construction workers in the country.

Noonan said some members had reported worksites were not changing their practices to meet the hygiene and safety measures that have been advised by medical authorities and mandated by government.

“This is not good enough. It is essential that the industry maintain all of the health and hygiene precautions that are required for construction workers to remain safe at work.” Key measures include frequent hand washing, proper social distancing, staggering of meal breaks, and, in some situations, the implementation of shift working.

“All the amenities areas on sites such as lunchrooms, break rooms, and toilet areas need to be kept scrupulously clean and we need repeated cleaning on sites to ensure there is minimal opportunity for the virus to spread.

“It is absolutely critical that if anyone in the industry believes they may have the virus they must self-isolate and seek medical advice immediately.”

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