COVID-19: managing building works during a health crisis
Many committees may be wondering whether to continue with scheduled works for their building or to restrict contractors on-site to minimise the risk and transmission of COVID-19.
At the time of writing this article, our advice as property service and facilities management specialists, is that regular contractors may continue their standard activities on the provision they have not come into contact with COVID-19. This includes prohibiting contractors who have any flu-like symptoms and those who should be in self-isolation as per government requirements. What’s more, contractors must also adhere to strict hygiene and sanitisation procedures.
Recommended guidelines for visiting contractors
When considering what works should and shouldn’t go ahead, committees should bear in mind the following to keep both the residents and visiting contractors safe and healthy.
Committees may need to revisit and possibly review contractor and visitor procedures to ensure everyone’s safety.
- Be briefed on social distancing measures. Contractors should be informed on social distancing protocols via phone before the contractor visits the property
- Request Safe Work Method Statements, which now include additional processes including Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and social distancing measures
- Practise social distancing in common areas and display signs or section-off areas where they expect to frequent – operate as if someone has been infected
- Disinfect equipment before it is brought on-site
- Regularly sanitise hands and ask them to disinfect door handles, and other surfaces after they have completed work
- Bring their own pens if any signatures are required.
Review contractor methods when it comes to cleaning common areas
When it comes to contractors who undertake jobs such as cleaning, the cleaning products that are being used and how they are being used should be reviewed
- Review cleaning products and increase the number of cleans, length of clean, and what gets cleaned. Refer to the Australian Government Department of Health Cleaning Guide for guidance
- While general cleaning is important for maintaining the basic hygiene and the physical cleanliness of a strata property, the COVID-19 outbreak requires cleaning techniques beyond a standard clean to kill airborne pathogens and the virus
- To help prevent transmission, ask cleaning contractors to present their COVID-19 policies or cleaning plans on how they are handling the situation. They need to show they are taking the necessary steps to prevent the spread of infections. New cleaning processes should cover all common areas that owners, residents and visitors utilise
- Talk to your strata or facilities manager to access PICA Group’s list of cleaning contractors who can undertake rigorous and methodical cleaning work, or complete this form to be contacted by a team member from Assured Building Maintenance (NSW only).
Recommended considerations when deciding to go ahead or postpone works
Remember, the primary role of an owners corporation or body corporate is to maintain common property. Committees should bear in mind their responsibilities when deciding whether to continue with works. Common areas must always be maintained to a standard that is safe for residents and guests.
- If you have upgrades scheduled that are not vital to the safety of the building or require an increase in levies or special levies to be raised, consider postponing these works if there is a concern for owner’s cash flow issues, jobs, and poor health
- In NSW, under Section 80 of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015, an owners corporation, so far as practical, must implement their capital works plan. This should be a consideration when deciding whether to postpone or continue with works
- Remember that because of COVID-19, the construction industry may see shortages to supplies and see labour issues. It is, therefore, worthwhile considering the possibility of delays and what impact interruptions would have.
COVID-19 is proving we need to come together as a community to look after each other and look after our properties. If you have concerns about how your property should move forward with works, talk to your strata or facilities manager.
Note: We are not in the position to provide health advice and urge you to keep up-to-date with guidance provided by the Australian Government.