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Construction shutdown to take ‘heavy toll’ on industry

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The South Australian construction industry is reeling after building work was not exempted from the state’s seven-day lockdown, with the industry’s peak body warning of safety issues if workers are not given enough time to clear up unfinished construction sites.

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Premier Steven Marshall today announced that construction work would not be allowed to go ahead as part of the seven-day state-wide lockdown, which begins at 6pm today.

Master Builders SA CEO Will Frogley said the shutdown of the construction industry would have a huge impact on the more than 70,000 construction workers directly employed by the sector.

“A seven-day lockdown for our industry is equivalent to two to three weeks lost production,” Frogley said.

“So this lockdown is really going to take a heavy toll on the construction industry.

“If the lockdown continues past seven days, we really need construction to be allowed to continue and reclassified as essential.”

South Australia’s construction industry was classified as essential in both the November lockdown and the March lockdowns last year.

The decision to exclude construction as an essential industry follows a similar call in New South Wales to shut the construction industry down last weekend.

Construction work remains exempted from the Victorian lockdown.

Frogley said he hoped SA construction workers would be given an exemption to work until close of business on Wednesday to help safely shutdown unfinished construction sites.

“Construction sites are very difficult to leave quickly, they need to be properly locked up,” he said.

“There are safety issues, a lot of money’s worth of equipment and supplies that need to be secured or taken away.

“And what we really need to know right now is will people in the industry be given sufficient time to secure this.

“If you’ve got a half-built construction site, if things aren’t properly secured, if the scaffolding isn’t properly secured or things like that … things can be left out on the site which could end up being safety issues when people return.

“If people are leaving quickly, that’s when mistakes can happen.”

Frogley said the lockdown came at a time when there is a “serious timber shortage”.

“If the mills are shut, the industry will miss out on a week’s worth of production at a really critical time,” he said.

The SA Property Council also criticised the move to shut down construction work

“While the ‘pause’ button has been pushed for construction sites, they should be a priority as South Australia emerges out of this seven-day lockdown,” SA Property Council Executive Director Daniel Gannon said.

“As we have seen in Victoria, construction sites have continued to operate safely over the past week and prior to this time and provide important job opportunities for South Australians.”

It comes as the NSW Government is under intense pressure over its sudden decision to shut down their state’s construction industry over the weekend.

Builders, unions and construction companies in the eastern state have formed a united front to lobby the government to allow some workers back on sites before the end of the month.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian defended the construction shutdown as necessary but said the government was working with the sector on safe ways to open up again on July 31.

She flagged the industry would have extra safety measures including on-site COVID testing.

“It was important for us to take a pause so that the industry can resume and continue safely and indefinitely,” Berejiklian told reporters on Tuesday.

The construction shutdown is costing the NSW economy at least $700 million per week and has forced 250,000 tradies to down tools.

-With AAP

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