Construction sites could face tighter restrictions or shutdowns as COVID-19 numbers spike

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce more restrictions on Tuesday and that could include shutdowns in the construction industry.

Live at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday — Premier Ford’s COVID-19 announcement

According to media reports, shutting down construction sites, closing manufacturing plants and possibly imposing a curfew are options discussed at the highest level of the Ontario government over the weekend.

“While we don’t want to cause undue concern, we do feel that it is important to let members know that we have been told by OHBA that the provincial government is discussing possible new restrictions on construction, which could be announced this week, Jason Burggraaf, executive director at the Greater Ottawa Builders’ Association (GOHBA) said in a weekend statement to members.

Crosslinx confirms 28 COVID-19 cases at LRT station construction in Toronto

Ontario’s construction sites have seen a number of outbreaks in recent weeks, including Crosslinx Transit Solutions where at least 28 workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and another 70 are currently in isolation. Cases are linked to employees and subcontractors at eight sites.

Widespread speculation started after Ford’s press conference on Friday where he highlighted the rising death count, hospitalizations and ICU admissions that are increasing across the province.

“I want to stress that nothing in confirmed as of right now, and the Association is in constant contact with OHBA, the provincial government, Tarion and the city,” Burggraaf said in his statement.

“The Ford government is well aware of the impact of shutting down projects mid-construction, with an average of 500 to 600 families a month moving into a new home in Ottawa. They also know that there are thousands of renovation projects across the city in various states of completion.”

Non-essential businesses were shut down across the province on Dec. 26, however, construction sites have been allowed to continue operating.

Construction sites across the United Kingdom closed on Friday as new COVID-19 restrictions came into force for all but essential building projects.

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) says this further disruption will have a significantly bigger impact than the last shutdown, which saw a 10 per cent decline in economic activity in the sector.

The Quebec government imposed new restrictions on individuals and some businesses on Saturday, including an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew that will last for at least four weeks.
Construction sites in Quebec remain open.

Toronto Public Health has put new rules in place for all employers in the city, including those in the construction industry:

  • Any employer must contact Toronto Public Health when someone on‐site tests positive for COVID‐19.
  • A workplace outbreak is defined as two confirmed cases of COVID originating from the workplace. That means the case must be contracted from the workplace (think about WSIB reporting requirements).
  • For large workplaces, a positive test case in different areas or departments may or may not trigger outbreak requirements. This will be determined by public health. For example, if there is a positive case with a tile setter on the fourth floor of a high-rise building and a positive case with a form worker on the 40th floor, Toronto Public Health may deem them unrelated and therefore not trigger outbreak requirements.
  • If an outbreak is determined (two or more cases) public health will work with the employer.
  • If an outbreak is determined and there is no privacy risk to workers (not defined – this is at the discretion of public health) the company and location will be added to a public registry.

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