The Ontario government is taking measures to increase health and safety on construction sites during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With the COVID-19 situation changing day by day, we are working to ensure that workers have the tools they need to help keep jobsites safe,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, in a statement. “We must do everything possible to fight the spread of this disease.”
Ontario’s chief prevention officer announced updated guidance to help employers better understand their responsibilities and what is needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on the jobsite.
The update follows an initial guidance document circulated on March 20, and addresses sector topics including:
- providing better onsite sanitation, including a focus on high-touch areas like site trailers, door handles, and hoists;
- communicating roles, responsibilities, and health and safety policies, by, for example, posting site sanitization schedules and work schedules;
- enabling greater distances between workers by staggering shifts, restricting site numbers, and limiting elevator usage; and
- protecting public health by tracking and monitoring workers.
Under Ontario law, employers must take every reasonable precaution to keep workers safe. Workers have the right to refuse unsafe work. If health and safety concerns are not resolved internally, a worker can seek enforcement by filing a complaint with the ministry’s Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008.
Ministry inspectors are also inspecting jobsites every day. Failure to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations could result in a stop work order.
The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development is also giving workers in the construction sector an extra year to renew their training if they work at heights.
The mandatory training of more than 120,000 workers was due to expire over the next six months. However, many training providers have either cancelled classes or shut down due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The extension will apply to workers who successfully completed their working-at-heights training between February 28 and August 31, 2017. The validity period, normally three years, would have ended this year. It will now end in 2021.
The extension will ensure affected workers can continue to work when possible. Construction will move ahead without interruption.