Weekly News Highlights - 27th March 2020

Written by
Dean Oliver

Weekly News Highlights - 27th March 2020

Written by
Dean Oliver

Weekly News Highlights - 27th March 2020

Written by
Dean Oliver

5. TBM Breakthrough Marks Completion of Sydney Metro Tunnelling

Tunnel Boring Machine Kathleen broke-through to Blues Point last week marking the completion of tunnelling for the Sydney Metro project.

Named after Kathleen Butler, who played a vital role in building the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the TBM completed twin tunnels, each one 885 metres long and up to 40 m below sea level from Barangaroo to Blues Point.

This marks the completion of a total of 31 kilometres of tunnels delivered by 5 TBMs for the Sydney Metro project.

But the occasion wasn’t celebrated with the usual fanfare as ministers are busy dealing with a health crisis.

4. Industry Consortium Receive $28 Million to Transform Construction

A consortium of 30 organisations including tertiary institutions and construction industry heavyweights have received $28 million in federal funding for the Building 4.0 research initiative. 

Building 4.0 is an R&D project by the Australian Government Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Program which is tasked with improving key outcomes in the construction industry such as cost, quality, time, waste and sustainability.

Monash University, Lendlease, The University of Melbourne, Donovan Group, BlueScope, QUT and over 20 other industry organisations will look at bringing construction into the new age. The initiative will look at things like digitisation, off-site manufacturing, new materials, advanced design and improving culture, communication and regulation.

3. Formwork Collapse in Canberra

Formwork has collapsed during a concrete pour on a building site in Canberra on Tuesday.

One worker was taken to hospital but released a short time later. WorkSafe ACT has stopped work on the site and is currently undertaking an investigation.

‘The Parade’ development on Constitution Ave in Campbell is being developed by JWLand with Icon Construction the head contractor. Icon also delivered Western Sydney’s most notorious building, Opal Tower. 

It is understood Xmplar Formwork’s lightweight steel forms were being used on the site. Managing Director for the company, Eoin Devaney, recently posted the project on LinkedIn saying the lightweight system “reduces risk and adds productivity”.

2. Poor Virus Safety Measures Reported on Construction Sites

Construction site staff would hardly notice they’re in the middle of a pandemic with many workers expressing their concern over crowded sites and union negligence.

CFMEU secretary, Dave Noonan, admitted that there were many sites not implementing measures for appropriate hygiene. 

The Age reported that their tour of six commercial sites in inner Melbourne found examples at every one of building workers centimetres apart, rather than the recommended 1.5 metres.

Electrical worker, Ryan Stanton, in an article on left-wing publication, Red Flag, let rip:

“The idea that our health and safety should be left to the discretion of companies like Grocon, the greed of which resulted in the deaths of three passers-by after a wall at one of its construction sites collapsed in 2013, would be laughable if it wasn’t so horrifying.”

1. Global Construction Community Divided over Site Shutdowns

Construction in Australia is full-steam ahead despite increasing social distancing measures and limitations on gatherings including funerals being limited to 10 people and weddings just 4.

This is causing a divide in the global construction community between those that are calling for site shutdowns and those wanting to keep construction open for business.

In a rare alliance, the CFMEU and Master Builders Australia have formed a united front to keep sites open.

The Age said, of those they interviewed, there was an even split between those wanting to continue work and those who felt the union should be lobbying for a shut down.

There’s even a petition circulating in the UK to shut sites down, currently it has over 400 signatures. 

Many others have taken to Twitter to express their concerns with #shutthesites & #StopConstruction:

Alex Neary: “What’s going on with the millions of construction workers eating in tiny canteens touching stuff all day other people have touched and going back home to family’s and possibly passing on the virus? Absolute farse.”

@Ro88o: “The amount of sites ive worked having to wear ridiculous ppe that hinders your work, but then theres a worldwide pandemic and its ok lads just carry on!? #shutthesites”

@eth4n___: "On a construction site, still running, no social distancing, nothings been cleaned, offices/canteens over crowded. No support to the self employed as of yet"

Hol @1975hols: "UK Parliament: Close construction sites now to stop the spread of coronavirus. — Sign the Petition! http://chng.it/t9Q4brth"

On The Tools put the question out on Twitter on what people thought of keeping sites open — there were mixed responses but most called for sites to shut.

@neilrp24 Replying to @onthetoolstv: “Absolute joke! Can’t have a radio on site and need a permit to use step ladders but everyone can spread the corona virus”

@jeremyduthie Replying to @onthetoolstv: “None of us particularly WANT to be at work, but seeing as the majority of us are self employed and ,(as it stands at the moment) not receiving any help whatsoever. What are we supposed to do? If the virus doesn’t kill us, the starvation will!!”

@RTOhunter Replying to @onthetoolstv: “Absolutely shocking.”

So, should sites be kept open to protect the income of workers — particularly the self-employed and small business owners — or should the health and safety of workers and their families be the priority?