Construction sites remain open in B.C. amid concerns about COVID-19

Construction sites remain open in B.C. amid concerns about COVID-19
Watch As more businesses close their doors and cease operations during this pandemic, the construction industry is still working. As Jasmine Bala tells us, some construction workers say the current conditions under COVID-19 are unsafe.

It’s business as usual at construction sites across Vancouver Island but with some extra precautions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Increase your sanitization and disinfecting protocol,” said Rory Kulmala, CEO of Vancouver Island Construction Association. “So if you have tools, disinfect those tools at the beginning and at the end of your shift. Don’t share your tools. When you come home, change your clothes right away… [and] of course, washing your hands.”

However Rob Tournour, CEO of Rob Tournour Masonry in Victoria, said it’s still difficult to maintain social distancing and sanitization because of the nature of the job.

“Whether it’s, you know, carpentry or plumbing or dry wall or painting, there are so many tasks that involve handling the same piece of material, or the same piece of equipment or the same tool,” said Tournour.

That’s why some businesses have shut down operations, including Rob Tournout Masonry.

“We just were concerned that it would be nearly impossible to maintain safe distance and to ensure that our workers or the workers of other trades aren’t going to be exposed,” Tournour explained, adding that his employees were given a “COVID assistance” cheque to help them in these difficult times.

Now, Tournour is calling on the province to make a similar move and shut down all construction sites across B.C.

“Just today they announced that they’re shutting down all any kind of business where there’s one on one contact whether it’s spas or tattoo parlors and a construction site is rife with one-on-one contact from start to finish,” he said.

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said some of these construction sites are essential projects and all of them should be taking the appropriate measures. But ultimately, it’s up to the industry and and WorkSafe B.C. to make it happen.

“I can’t go out and look at every single individual site,” said Henry. “The expectation is that the industry will take this on, and we are working with WorkSafe B.C. as well to ensure that these types of measures are implemented across the board.”

According to WorkSafe B.C. guidelines, their expectation is that “employers provide water and soap for hand-washing,” even though they acknowledge it may be difficult to stock hand sanitizer in the current environment.

“Our expectation is also that employers instruct their workers to practice good hygiene practices that align with the direction of the public health officer.”

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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