COVID-19: Construction should continue, but inspectors may keep their distance

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covid 19

Ontario Construction News staff writer

The corona virus continues to reshape the way the construction business is conducted and sets new and previously unanticipated challenges for workers’ health and safety. But there are measures companies and individuals can take and there are indications that the industry should be among the least-affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

See: COVID-19: Thousands sign petition urging businesses and unions to shut down construction sites

These perspectives are apparent in a statement from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA) saying that it isn’t necessary to shut down construction projects even as many other businesses are forced into closures.

“Halting construction activity will do more harm than good for construction workers, community residents and the economy,” said AGCA CEO Stephen E. Sandherr.

“Construction firms are already acting to ensure the safety and health of their employees in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.  These new measures, which include increased hygiene and halting group gatherings of staff, are in addition to the fact construction workers already wear protective equipment, including gloves that will help protect them and their co-workers.

“Given the precautions already in place, halting construction will do little to protect the health and safety of construction workers. But it will go a long way in undermining economic vitality by depriving millions of workers of the wages they will need over the coming days. At the same time, these measures have the potential to bankrupt many construction firms who have contractual obligations to stay on schedule or risk incurring significant financial penalties.

“In addition, halting construction projects will undermine ongoing, and future, recovery efforts in regions hit by natural disasters, and will also undermine any future efforts to expand hospital capacity.

“We understand the need for social distancing to help slow the spread of coronavirus. But needlessly shutting down projects where workers are already protected will not help. Instead it will threaten the livelihood of millions of craft professionals, force many small and family-owned businesses to shut down, and undermine the nation’s ability to respond to natural disasters, including the coronavirus.

“In the unfortunate event construction is halted, we urge construction owners to consider continuing their scheduled payments to contractors as a down payment for work to be completed on the project. These payments will help mitigate some of the potential economic impacts of construction shutdowns.”

An example of how social distancing applies while construction projects continue is a report from Ottawa’s municipal infrastructure office.

Stephen Willis, Ottawa’s general manager, Planning Infrastructure and Economic Development, has advised the National Capital Heavy Construction Association (NCHCA) that there will be no more meetings at city facilities and the  Right-of-Way counter is closed at 100 Constellation, 6th floor, but will remain open electronically.”

“We are also advised that the city is identifying projects that are under construction to assess whether adjustments to working conditions are required. Inspectors have been asked to work from their vehicles instead of construction trailers and maintain social distance.,” NCHCA executive director Kathryn Sutherland reported. “Meetings are to be done remotely. The city has not cancelled contract awards.”

14 COMMENTS

  1. This article is very ignorant. This virus in many cases shows no symptoms at the onset and despite measures contractors try and put in place it does not effectively stop the spread. Workers are share tools and work spaces and not all activities can be done with gloves. All it takes is one person and the virus will continue to spread. Answering a questionnaire before went wrong a jobsite does not help if a person isn’t even aware that they are infected. The only way to stop the spread is to shut down all non essential work.

  2. I do not agree at all with this article…. so basically my husband is supposed to continue to go to his job site each and every day with the risk of coming home and infecting myself and our 3 kids. The rest of us are self isolating at home but all this is pointless if he has to keep going to work and possibly expose our whole family to this virus. I understand the essential business’s still need to operate but why risk the lives of so many others. What is more important during this terrifying time? The safety of our children or the jobsite that daddy has to go to every single day. He does not have access to a sanitary washroom or even a place to wash his hands. Someone please explain to me why his life and our lives aren’t as important as everyone else who able to protect their families 100% by staying at home.

    • I agree with u I’m beyond livid !!! Why don’t they have a hotel for the construction workers ??? Us wives have to be paranoid !!

  3. What sense does this article make? The chief medical health officer is identifying having coffee with a friend as not social distancing, but working on site with over 100 workers is. Filthy washroom facilities, impossibility of working while maintaining 2 meter distance, no infection control training, and no PPE make the idea that anyone in government cares about construction workers laughable.
    Where is the MOL? They haven’t yet made a statement about the virus. They are no longer coming to site with the exception of emergencies.
    This is about greed and politics, there is no other reason to keep the sites open.

  4. I am completely disgusted with this article! If they deem these sites as so safe why are inspectors asked to work from vehicles? Are our trade men’s lives less important? This article screams all you care about is money!

  5. Wow thats so stupid , so we have to self insolite to prevent the virus but for us the construction worker no one give a beep , continue working and if u catch the virus they will trow a big middle finger at you and laught and they will replace you with someone else

  6. My husband is a project manager who supports the frontline construction personnel. What is the direction for this group of the workforce? What measures could companies take for them? Do these people not have families to whom they return to?

  7. Just asked the site super for soap etc. He asked us why is he supposed to bring that. He told me he is home because its dangerous

  8. I’m a master Carpenter who has made the choice to stop. The truth is none of the builders can meet the necessary requirements to keep us safe, trust me, I tried all week. We were promised masks, hand sanitizer and a schedule that would limit my crew of 4 to work alone. None of that held up and even counted 15 guys at once in the home. Close it all down and let us do are part to stop this… Family first!

  9. I have been on several construction sites in the last 2 weeks. No one has done anything to keep us safe. There is no running water on site just dirty port a johns and some very questionable people. I have a family and I only get time off if I get sick. Why should I be risking my health and more importantly my families health everyday I am in the field? Answer is the same reason not one stops to let you cross the street if you have a reflective vest on and a hard hat. Simply no one cares about construction workers. The stigma is that we are lesser. I went to university I just happen to make more money building houses and condos with my hands rather than sit behind a desk (also all the office staff are off but we are not)

  10. What a joke. Nobody cares about construction workers. Nobody. If a cop or a firefighter dies on the job, they basically get a state funeral. If a construction worker is killed, as happened recently in Pickering, the story barely makes the news cycle, and it’s dropped within 12 hours. Covid kills. Anyone.

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