Construction deemed essential as Ontario closes at-risk workplaces to protect health and safety

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The Ontario government will order at-risk workplaces to close-down by 11:59 tonight, while encouraging businesses to explore opportunities to continue operations through work-from-home and innovative business models. The move expands the province-wide state of emergency declared last week to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Many construction projects made the list of essential services and are not on the list of closures.

Work sites across the province meeting the following criteria will remain open:

  • Construction projects and services associated with the healthcare sector, including new facilities, expansions, renovations and conversion of spaces that could be re-purposed for healthcare space;
  • Construction projects and services required to ensure safe and reliable operations of critical provincial infrastructure, including transit, transportation, energy and justice sectors beyond the day-to-day maintenance;
  • Construction work and services, including demolition services, in the industrial, commercial, institutional and residential sectors;
  • Construction work and services that supports health and safety environmental rehabilitation projects.

In making the announcement, Premier Doug Ford reminded businesses to put in place protocols for physical distancing and regular hand-washing, in order to protect the health and safety of employees and the general public.

A list of essential businesses that are exempt from the new rules was released Monday night. They include, but are not limited to grocery stores and pharmacies, telecommunications and IT infrastructure service providers, and businesses that support power generation, natural gas distribution and clean drinking water.

Essential businesses are being asked to put into place “any and all measures to safeguard the well-being of their employees on the front-lines.”

Teleworking and online commerce are permitted at all times for all businesses.

“While this was a difficult decision, we trust that Ontario’s business leaders will be able to promote safety while carrying out business and protecting jobs,” Ford said.

“The grocery store clerks, transit and hydro workers and truckers are out there on the front lines making sure the people of Ontario continue to have access to the products and services they need. It is essential that their workplaces be kept as safe as possible so these local heroes can return home to their families worry free.”

At-risk workplaces will be ordered to close by 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24 and “where possible, take the necessary measures so staff can work from home allowing operations to continue.”

“Our government applauds the sacrifice and hard work of all Ontario workers and businesses, and will stand by them through this crisis,” said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.

“We call on workplaces that remain open to be vigilant and to enforce the highest possible standards of cleanliness and caution as we continue the fight together against COVID-19.”

Ontario Construction News will remain open and publish daily. “Our business has always operated with every employee and contractor working remotely, from his or her own home,” said publisher Mark Buckshon.

“Regardless of the likely exemption as an essential service for media businesses, our lean company has always practiced ‘social distancing’ and in fact did not need to change any of its operating procedures as the COVID-19 crisis intensifies.”

3 COMMENTS

  1. So based on
    28. Construction work and services, including demolition services, in the industrial, commercial, institutional and residential sectors;

    does that mean all construction to remain active?
    This seems silly as sites are filthy, no washrooms, no hand washing stations, people stuck in smaller spaces around others (no distancing possible)
    Seems this would be more about the money and interest rates that about the workers…
    Shameful, and i hope to see it change.

    • As far as I know, yes, construction can continue; however workers have the right to leave the site if they believe conditions are unsafe.

  2. I am a proud member of IBEW 353 and am currently working on a construction site with over 400 workers.
    We had a visit yesterday from 2 of our union reps, they spent 4 hours onsite, talked with all the members and had an extensive walk around site…
    They were very happy to see that both the electrical and mechanical contractors onsite have provided extra washrooms and self washing hand stations along with hand sanitizer in several locations. (this goes over and above what the GC is doing)…
    Both lunch and break times have been staggered to ensure physical spacing…
    This measures have been taken to ensure all workers ‘Feel safe, and want to come to work’.

    For the OCC to say they speak on behalf of all unions, is untrue and unfair..
    As we here at this site WANT TO KEEP WORKING, we will do whatever it takes to ensure we can continue to provide for our families !!

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