The building and construction industry has enjoyed a strong return to work, with the overwhelming majority of builders and tradespeople doing the right thing and workers showing a willingness to get vaccinated and abide by new health directions.

Nevertheless, the newly introduced COVID-19 protocols and procedures for the sector are still in their infancy, and a gap has been identified related to maintenance and service workers transiting through building and construction worksites.

This gap was recently highlighted by an unvaccinated service and maintenance technician who was COVID-19 positive when they visited a construction site in Melbourne earlier this week.

In reviewing the case, it appears that the service and maintenance technician, who is booked in for their first vaccination, transited through part of a construction site to access roof fans.

As the site was operating at reduced worksite capacity, it is expected that the risk of widespread exposure will be minimal.

Master Builders Victoria CEO Rebecca Casson said: “The building and construction industry has a good track record of managing COVID-19 on worksites and this case is no different. All the correct protocols have been followed, including notification to the Department of Health, deep cleaning of the site, and notification of close contacts. 

“Our sector understands that it is in a privileged position to work, where many others are not permitted to do so.  However, this COVID-19 protocol issue has been detected early and we have acted swiftly and collaboratively to ensure any gaps in the new system are addressed.”

Earl Setches, State Secretary of the Plumbing and Pipe Trades Employees Union, said: “This case again stresses the importance for all building and construction workers to immediately get vaccinated to protect themselves, their families, their workmates and our community. 

“Service and maintenance workers are a vital part of our sector, especially those working to improve air quality to suppress the spread of COVID-19. It is essential that these workers are vaccinated so that they can legitimately access, and COVID safely navigate, both facilities management areas and construction sites.”

Scott Williams, CEO of Air Conditioning & Mechanical Contractors’ Association of Australia, said: “This COVID-19 protocol gap is an important lesson for our industry and, moving forward, we will continue to work with the facilities management sector to ensure that check-in protocols are better integrated with active building and construction areas.”