City of Ottawa outlines construction safety protocols during COVID-19 pandemic

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Ottawa Construction News staff writer

The City of Ottawa has set out protocols for the local construction industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a late March memo, Stephen Willis, general manager of the Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development Departments, outlined the safety guidelines and processes for construction in the city.

“Even as we are in a state of emergency, our citizens and our economy require the outcomes provided by construction, whether it be the investment provided by important infrastructure projects such as the completion of the work on Elgin Street, or the continuance of the construction of new housing stock through private development,” he wrote.

“Through the continuance of construction, our focus remains the safety of the public, our staff and our industry partners. Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development (PIED) relies on the guidance of our provincial partners to help ensure all safety issues are strictly met while this work continues.

He writes that city staff will follow measures outlined by Ontario’s Chief Protection Officer to ensure staff will ensure that these measures are enforced across the organization, including the following:

  • Providing better on-site 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.
  • Protecting public health, by tracking and monitoring workers.

“We do not work alone in the enforcement of these critical safety measures. The Ministry of Labour (MOL) plays a critical role in the protection of all workplaces, as well as the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA),” Willis wrote.

“As this is an ever-changing emergency, we will ensure that all those working on a job site are being made aware of their rights and all guidance from MOL. The following website will be shared with our partners: https://www.ontario.ca/page/construction-site-health-and-safety-during-covid-19. All measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be done in compliance with requirements under the OHSA and associated regulations and in accordance with public health directives issued by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

“In addition, we continue to work with organizations such as the Greater Ottawa Homebuilders Association (GOHBA) and the National Capital Heavy Construction Association (NCHCA) to ensure that collaboration between city and private employees on construction sites are coordinated for positive public health outcomes.

“PIED staff continue to closely monitor the situation and listen to the recommendations of Ottawa Public Health, industry experts and other levels of government,” Willis wrote. “We are adjusting and revising our continuity of operations to adjust to the fluidity of the current situation to continue to ensure the health and safety of staff, residents, and stakeholders.”

“If council members receive concerns from the public about the safety of operations of any construction site, they should refer the matter to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, who is responsible for regulating construction site operations. You can refer residents to the Ministry’s Health and Safety Contact Centre at  1-8772020008.”

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