The Construction industry is just one among many industries that have been severely impacted by COVID-19, and the resulting provincial shutdowns.
The last several weeks we have seen the Ontario government gradually roll out phases for re-opening the province.
As workers return to construction sites, it is important to remember that it still the employer’s responsibility to ensure the workplace is safe. A clearly stated and accessible COVID-19 policy will not only work to protect employees from harm, but also protect employers from possible legal exposure.
Think of a COVID-19 policy as a construction blueprint. You wouldn’t start work on a construction site without a blueprint, so why return to work without a guide on how to operate during the current pandemic?
Employers should post and communicate COVID-19 related policies to their employees, contractors, and trades. These policies should set out how the construction site will operate, including: how the site will be sanitized; how physical distancing will be practiced; and, how work will be scheduled.
For physical distancing, employers should consider not only restricting the number of workers on site, but also staggering worker’s start times, breaks, and lunches. Employers can also limit the number of employees with access to elevators and hoists at a given time.
COVID-19 policies in the construction industry should aim to responsibly limit the amount of on-site contact between workers and outside service providers.
Carefully crafted policies can also set out to employees how they are to proceed if they feel unwell either on-site or before the start of work.
As workers are gradually returning to construction sites, it is important to keep in mind it isn’t business as usual anymore. Employers need to know how to navigate in today’s world of a “new normal” and a detailed COVID-19 policy is just the blueprint they need.
Robin K. Mann, JD, Associate Lawyer