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.
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.”