British Columbia’s construction industry may face complete closure of construction sites. Quebec has already closed all non-essential construction sites on March 24th midnight. In order to slow down the spread of the new coronavirus, Quebec has announced shut down of the majority of construction sites.
This is due to Quebec’s construction union saying many construction sites do not have proper hygiene control and it is also difficult for construction workers to the 2 meter social distance.
Reliance Properties CEO and former chair of Urban Development Institute Jon Stobell has expressed to Business in Vancouver magazine (BIV) that “It is the inevitable next step,”. Stobell’s company currently has only 2 construction projects in progress and he said his contractors are “going beyond” the provincial requirements to ensure worker and public safety. However, he believes that all non-essential BC construction projects are going to be ordered to close soon.
On March 22, COVID-19 Joint Information Centre released guidelines that permit the operation of construction sites but no more than 50 workers can be in the same space at one time. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also issued a set of construction site guidelines, and here we quote:
- There should be no more than 50 people in the same space in any circumstances.
- Where possible, employees should remain at least two metres away from each other.
- Signage should be posted to ensure a maximum of four people in an elevator at any given time.
- Reduce face-to-face meetings and gatherings, while site meetings should be held outside or in open spaces.
- Set up additional handwashing stations and post signage indicating the locations.
- Maintain a list of employees working at the site and update the list daily.
- All common areas and surfaces should be cleaned at day’s end, including washrooms, shared offices, common tables, desks, light switches and door handles.
- Anyone with COVID-19-like symptoms, such as sore throat, fever, sneezing or coughing, must self-isolate for 14 days.
WorkSafeBC’s Fitzsimmons said that “workers have the right to refuse unsafe work if they believe it presents an undue hazard,”. Also in terms of enforcement, WorkSafeBC “will consider issuing orders for non-compliance, and may issue stop-work orders if there is a high risk of serious illness. Penalties may be imposed for flagrant violations.”