Construction sites across Ontario are looking different as we make our way through the current COVID-19 health crisis. Health and safety measures have changed and workers are practicing social distancing. Our priority is the health and safety of our workers while we continue to build homes for a region that is facing a generational housing shortage per the Toronto Sun.
The Ontario Ministry of Labour has released guidelines for construction health and safety during this pandemic. Builders are complying by adding the following:
- Additional on-site sanitation
- Physical distancing
- Schedule adjustments
- Illness reporting
According to Ontario Newsroom, the government released safety guidelines on April 30th to provide direction to those working in various sectors.
These new sector-specific guidelines feature recommended actions employers can begin to plan for as they prepare to adapt to the new reality during COVID-19, including:
- Ways to ensure appropriate physical distancing such as holding team meetings outdoors, staggering shift times and using ground markings and barriers to manage traffic flow.
- Changes to the workplace, such as installing plexiglass barriers, increasing the air intake on building heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to increase air flow and using boot sanitizing trays.
- Boosting workplace sanitation, providing personal protective equipment, substituting dry dusting with vacuuming, ensuring customer-facing staff are given hand sanitizer, providing a place to dispose of sanitizing wipes and enforcing handwashing before and after breaks.
The government is also issuing posters to promote a variety of useful safety tips. The posters offer helpful advice on physical distancing and sanitation. They are downloadable from Ontario.ca so employers can print and post them in their workplaces.
Starting this week, 58 new inspectors will join the hundreds of existing provincial labour inspectors on the ground. The inspectors will be communicating COVID-19 safety guidelines to essential workplaces or enforcing emergency measures, including physical distancing and the closure of non-essential businesses.
The government is committed to a careful, stage-by-stage approach to loosening emergency measures and reopening Ontario's economy. Public health and workplace safety will be our top priority while we balance the needs of people and businesses.
Per the Toronto Sun, residential construction was deemed an essential workplace when the province first issued emergency orders. This allowed the building of homes to continue. The order was amended on April 3rd to restrict construction activity to only new homes moving towards occupancy. The industry supported this step because, while pausing the balance of construction, it allowed work to continue on housing close to completion so families waiting for their homes could move in.
The province has since relaxed the municipal noise by-laws, extending the hours of construction. This means that two smaller workforce shifts can take place in one day. This limits the number of people on the site at any one time and is effective at physical distancing.
The government also introduced temporary changes allowing municipalities to extend for six months any development charge by-laws that are set to expire. The extension gives the municipalities breathing room until they can undertake more safely the extensive work of updating a development charge by-law. It also allows them to continue collecting needed revenue from development. For our industry, this change provides predictability of charges.
According to Magazine CCA, the construction industry will need to get used to seeing delays in projects which will continue even after the pandemic subsides. The ongoing disruptions in supply chains and the closure of project sites, both by government order and out of precaution, will produce delays that will continue to be an important topic for months to come.
The CCA is advocating an Emergency COVID-19 Construction Cost Reimbursement Program. The program would alleviate the financial pressure the industry is facing due to the pandemic and ensure these companies are operational when it's time to mobilize for economic recovery. CCA is recommending eligible costs be reimbursed up to five per cent of the contract value as a starting point, subject to adjustment as the duration and full impact of COVID-19 becomes clearer. Go to CCA for more information.
According to the CCA, the contractor would be entitled to contract time extension and reimbursement of reasonable costs incurred as the result of a delay that is caused by either an action or omission of the owner or consultant or by a stop work order issued by a court or other public authority provided that such order was not issued as the result of an act or fault of the contractor.
The contractor is entitled to contract time extension as the result of a delay that is caused by any of the following:
- Labour disputes, strikes, lock-outs
- Fire, unusual delay by common carriers or unavoidable casualties
- Abnormally adverse weather conditions
- Any cause beyond the contractor's control other than one resulting from a default or breach of contract by the contractor
All delays should be properly recorded, documented and promptly analyzed so that responsibility and compensation, if any, can be established.
Editor's note: This blog originally stated that the CCA already had authorized the Emergency COVID-19 Construction Cost Reimbursement Program. In actuality, they are simply advocating for this program. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
Posted by Judy Lamelza