COVID-19: urgent update for the building and construction sector – border closures and FIFO workers
The impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt across the construction industry with new legal and regulatory measures impacting contractual obligations, the availability of labour, project financing and supply chain reliability. This article addresses the key changes around State border closures and how this impacts upon FIFO and DIDO workers in particular.
Border closures in Queensland
- The Queensland Government implemented restricted entry into Queensland on 26 March 2020. Anyone who arrives in Queensland from another State or Territory is required to self-quarantine for 14 days unless they are exempt. Building and construction workers fall within the definition of exempt persons.
- Workers who live in New South Wales but work in Queensland are permitted to cross the border if they have an entry pass. Obtaining an entry pass is a simple process and can be done through the Queensland Government website here.
- A border pass will be sent by email and must be printed and displayed on the vehicle’s passenger side visor, windscreen or dashboard. These border measures do not apply to workers who live within Queensland and travel to New South Wales for work. Companies and individuals should be mindful of how these requirements will impact their work force. For example, workers who regularly cross the border may experience delays in getting to site due to police checks at the border.
Border exemptions for FIFO workers coming into QLD
- Queensland closed its borders to
workers who are not working on essential projects on Saturday, 4 April
2020. A worker must be classified as an
exempt person in order to cross the border to work on essential projects. An exempt person includes a FIFO worker. Further, the FIFO worker must also be a
critical resources sector employee. A
comprehensive list of critical sector employees can be found here. In short, this includes:
- site senior executives of a coal mine, mineral mine or quarry;
- open cut examiner of surface mines;
- underground mine managers;
- ventilation officers in underground mines;
- explosion risk zone controllers in underground mines;
- mechanical engineering managers in underground mines;
- electrical engineering managers in underground mines;
- underground fire offices in underground mines;
- persons in control of electrical work on mineral mines and quarries;
- persons in control of winding operations where the winder is at least 30kW; and
- site safety manager of an operating plant.
- Upon arrival at
the border, the FIFO worker must provide the following information:
- the name of their employer;
- evidence that they are a fly in / fly out worker;
- evidence that they are entering Queensland to go directly to work;
- evidence of the location of the worksite or work camp; and
- if they are a resources sector employee, evidence that they are a critical resources sector employee.
- These changes do not affect FIFO or DIDO workers travelling from within Queensland. The Queensland Government has also requested companies reduce FIFO and DIDO workers to minimise the mass movement of people. Companies and individuals involved in FIFO projects will need to consider the impact of these changes to their current workforce.
- The Chief Health Officer has
already sought extra precautions in camps and those on the move, whether FIFO
or DIDO. These being:
- In camps:
- infection control in kitchens and food preparation areas;
- suitable accommodation for self-quarantine;
- maintaining social distancing in camps, including for recreational activities, including outdoor sport;
- limiting movement of workers from camps and into the broader community;
- no more ‘hot bedding’ to limit contact between employees;
- cleaning each room thoroughly between uses, including changing and washing linen.
- On transport:
- avoiding close contact during transport, including reducing the numbers of people travelling on buses and aircraft;
- thorough cleans between passenger loads getting off, and those getting on;
- temperature testing at airports for passengers boarding aircraft;
- people with symptoms not travelling, and to immediately isolate, and seek medical advice; and
- reducing FIFO and DIDO during the COVID-19 to minimise the mass movement of people.
- there are many other areas of projects that are being impacted by COVID-19. If you require further advice on how COVID-19 is or will impact your project, please get in touch with us for an initial discussion so that we can address issues specific to your situation.
- In camps:
The Fair Work Commission has recently changed a number of federal modern awards to give employers greater flexibility for managing their workforce as a result of the pandemic. Currently, no COVID-19 related amendments have been made to mining and building and construction-related awards however this could change. Employers who are considering temporarily standing down employees, or implementing changes to days/hours or employee wages, should seek legal advice before doing so to ensure compliance with the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), JobKeeper Scheme provisions (as relevant), and other legal requirements.
This publication covers legal and technical issues in a general way. It is not designed to express opinions on specific cases. It is intended for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice. Further advice should be obtained before taking action on any issue dealt with in this publication.