While most Ontario residents are required to work from home as part of the province’s measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, one of the few groups continuing with regular operations is construction workers.
This comes as the Ford government has ordered all non-essential businesses to close by midnight on Tuesday while exempting the businesses that fall into 74 categories deemed essential to the supply chain and day-to-day life. This includes the construction industry.
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However, Premier Doug Ford said at Queen’s Park Tuesday that he will not hesitate to order the closure of any construction site that is not taking the necessary steps to help protect its workers and limit the spread of COVID-19.
As reported by CTV, Ford said that while he believes that construction must continue during the COVID-19 pandemic because it’s an essential business, he has “put the industry on notice” in regards to its duty to protect workers and take necessary precautions to promote social distancing.
Ford’s announcement was received in favour by the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) who said it is “essential to keep the industry working.”
David Wilkes President and CEO of BILD said the health and safety of employees, suppliers, and customers are the industry’s top concerns.
“The industry has taken proactive steps such as reducing staff to a bare minimum, practicing social distancing for inside work, prioritizing outside work where trades are not in close proximity with each other and increasing on-site sanitation and sanitation facilities,” said Wilkes.
Wilkes added that with housing supply already at crisis levels, stopping construction would potentially create long term implications for housing supply in the future.
“As the premier stated yesterday, Ontario workers have the right to refuse unsafe worksites and should report these conditions to the appropriate authorities. Many BILD members have adopted policies to close down work sites if someone is feeling unwell,” added Wilkes.
BILD supports Ontario government’s decision to deem construction sites as “essential workplaces” as a necessary balance between protecting health and safety of workers and delivering much needed housing. https://t.co/g4h2OSuNIf #OntarioSpirit pic.twitter.com/UKkUh0Ggjx
— BILD (@bildgta) March 24, 2020
However, not everyone is on board with Ford’s reasoning, with the executive director of the Ontario Construction Consortium (OCC), Phil Gillies, saying the announcement by Ford “missed the mark.”
Furthermore, the OCC said it’s calling for a “shutdown” of all non-essential construction sites for 14 days.
Ontario Construction Consortium is calling for a shutdown of all truly non-essential construction sites for 14 days. Government missed the mark in designating Industrial, Commercial and Institutional jobs as ‘essential’ – that’s pretty well everything. #onpoli @fordnation pic.twitter.com/Ddwe5AZJop
— Phil Gillies (@PhilGillies) March 24, 2020