Construction News

Fri April 03 2020

NZ spells out Covid-19 rules for construction

24 Mar The New Zealand government has published guidance for the construction sector on what will count as essential work following the forthcoming implementation of a Covid-19 ‘level 4’ alert.

It will move the alert level to 4 from 3 tomorrow for a period of four weeks. New Zealanders not working in essential services will have to stay at home and stop all interactions with others outside of their own household.

“We understand this is a very unsettling time for everyone, and appreciate you will have questions and concerns about what this means for you and the building and construction sector,” it said, promising to keep update online guidance to answer people’s questions.

In particular, it has sought to clarify what counts as an essential service/business. New Zealand’s current definition of an essential business for the building and construction sector is:

  • Any entity involved in building and construction related to essential services and critical infrastructure;
  • Any entity involved in building and construction required immediately to maintain human health and safety at home or work;
  • Any entity that performs or is involved in building and resource consenting necessary for the above purposes.

The expanded definition says that an essential business is:

  • Any entity or occupation involved in the supply of electricity, gas, water, waste water (sanitation),
  • Any entity or occupation involved in building and construction required immediately to maintain human health and safety at home or work;
  • Any entity that has regulatory responsibilities in relation to building consenting and compliance and resource consenting necessary for the above purposes.

It said that most building work required urgently for the purposes of maintaining human health and safety will not require a consent.

The guidance also offers advice for tradespeople such as plumbers, electricians and carpenter.

Under a level 4 alert, only tradespeople undertaking work related to essential business or infrastructure are expected to be working outside of the self-isolation protocol. The exception to this may be where tradespeople are required to undertake emergency work in situations such as:

  • The repair or replacement of a failed hot water cylinder required for sanitation purposes;
  • The unblocking and repair or replacement of sanitary waste or water supply pipes to maintain human health and safety;
  • The repair or replacement of electrical installations or equipment where there is an immediate threat to the human health and safety;
  • The securing of roof or structure where there is an immediate threat to human health and safety.

Examples of non-emergency work would be:

  • Finishing the lining of a client's house;
  • Pouring a concrete slab to get ahead while the country is in lockdown;
  • Replacing tap washers;
  • Routine servicing of non-essential equipment or infrastructure;
  • Replacement of sanitary fixtures that are working.

The guidance also addresses those currently working on a building site, who ask what can be done to secure or close a building site or waterproof it.

“During Alert level 4, the only building and construction work permitted is that work which is required to ensure that the building site does not pose an immediate life or health safety risk or that is required for essential services or infrastructure.  It is expected that, during Alert level 3, building sites will be closed down, as they would for a weekend or holiday break period.”

Asked “What if something happens subsequently to the site?”, the answer is that emergency work is permitted where the need is immediate and required to maintain human health and safety.

Completion of a building will be permitted only if the building is currently occupied by or required for an essential service/business, or where the need is immediate and required to maintain human health and safety.

The need for procedures such as building warrant of fitness to continue is dependent on the system's contribution to health and life safety of building occupants. It is likely that some scheduled monthly inspections for actively monitored systems (eg monitored warning systems and sprinkler systems) may be able to be delayed at this stage. However, trades should respond to alerts such as defect notifications, activations and urgent service/repair requirements of fire safety systems.

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