Ontario is lifting all restrictions on construction as the number of new COVID-19 cases in the province trends downwards.
On Thursday, May 14, Premier Doug Ford announced the details of Stage 1 of the province’s plan to reopen the economy. Part of the plan is to lift the essential workplace limits on construction, allowing all construction activity to resume on Tuesday, May 19.
“It’s been weeks since we had to do the unthinkable. We had to put things on hold. We had to cope with the new normal,” Ford said during a news conference. “Today’s news is good news. Our efforts are paying off.”
While construction sites will be allowed to resume work, employers and employees must follow public health guidelines.
“We need to remember that as we get more and more people back to work the risk of flare ups is real,” Ford said. “We need to stay vigilant, we can’t take our progress for granted, we can’t ignore health advice.”
Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott also encouraged residents to continue to maintain a 2 metre distance, or wear a face covering when distancing is not possible.
“To ensure the early first steps are a success, it’s never been more important for the public to continue to adhere to public health guidelines,” Elliott said. “By continuing to follow public health measures we can ensure a safe start to reopening the province.”
For construction sites, the province has outline numerous best practices to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, including the cleaning of all tools before and after each use, and to conduct meetings outside.
Ontario’s construction guidelines during COVID-19
As well, policies regarding site sanitation, illness reporting, social distancing and work schedules must be posted to all employees, contractors and tradespeople.
In order to ensure physical distancing on site, employers are encouraged to consider:
- Staggering start times, breaks and lunches.
- Restricting the number of people on-site and where they are assigned to work.
- Controlling site movement by limiting the potential for workers to gather, including personnel in material hoists and site trailers.
- Limiting the number of people who use elevators and hoists at one time.
- Holding meetings in an outside or large space to enable physical distancing.
- Limiting unnecessary on-site contact between workers, as well as between workers and outside service providers, and encourage physical distancing in these areas.
If a worker has tested positive for COVID-19 due to exposure at the workplace, or ta claim has been filed with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), the employer is required to notify the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development in writing within four days, the workplace joint health and safety committee or a health and safety representative as well as trade unions.
As well, any worker with symptoms related to cold, flu or COVID-19 should be sent home. Employers should advise ill employees to complete the online self-assessment.