While construction projects, job sites and work camps are legally exempt from Alberta’s COVID-19-related 50-person mass gathering rule, industry leaders said they are still implementing extra safety protocols to stop the spread of the virus and are following advice from Alberta Health.
Bill Black, president and chief operating officer of the Calgary Construction Association, said the organization, along with other industry stakeholders, are taking the health and safety of workers during this pandemic very seriously.
The CCA and other groups recently put together a pandemic planning guide of best practices to be used as a guideline for other construction contractors, Black said.
“If the density of workers got to the point that it was considered contrary to the social distancing recommendations, then the workloads are being adjusted. The number of people on site are being reduced and the prioritization of work is being changed,” Black said.
“When this crisis began to emerge, the safety resources took on the challenge of a new threat and a new issue, and applied their experience and began to compile safety protocols.”
Black said the “safety-conscious” industry looked at everything, including managing sites, proximity of workers, sanitizing equipment and hand tools, restricting meetings and changing lunchtime procedures.
Several industry workers, who didn’t want to be identified for fear of losing their jobs, raised concerns with Global News about construction sites, like the Calgary Cancer Centre, and questioned whether they were safe.
In a statement, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Infrastructure said all workers are required to work six feet from each other for extended periods of time. It added that the Calgary Cancer Centre site is two million square feet in size and allows for “adequate social distancing.”
“Cleaning products are available and are being used to sanitize lunchrooms. Any staff or workers with any signs of illness or who have traveled recently are required to stay home and self-isolate. The Calgary Cancer Centre project has reviewed their COVID-19 processes and protocols with the government’s Occupational Health & Safety and Environmental Public Health departments,” the statement read.
Alberta Health said when it comes to construction sites, anyone with flu-like symptoms is not required to come to work, must self-isolate and call 811.
Alberta Construction Safety Association CEO Dan MacLennan said he has heard both concerns and solutions amid the novel coronavirus crisis.
“We do hear concerns and do hear what employers are doing about it. We know everything came fast. People are reacting but certainly we hear a lot about the plans people have in place, the challenges around those plans and what people are doing to make sure the challenges are met,” MacLennan said, adding employees always have the right to refuse dangerous work.
“I know people are afraid of losing their jobs but if anybody phones me who I know personally and formally, then my advice would always be then don’t. Refuse to work.”
On the flip side, if an employee isn’t following the proper safety protocols, they would be sent home too, Black said.
Black said the commercial construction sector makes up about nine to 10 per cent of Alberta’s gross domestic product. When expanded to include architects, engineers, manufacturers and distributors, that number is closer to 15 per cent.
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