Health and Safety Practices on Construction Sites
Due to the COVID-19 virus, Ontario has been in a State of Emergency for over a month now. As of May 4, 2020, some essential construction projects have reopened, which includes:
- Shipping and logistics
- Broadband, communication, and digital infrastructure
- Any project that supports the improved delivery of goods and services
- Municipal projects
- Colleges and universities
- Childcare centres
- Site preparation, excavation and servicing for institutional, commercial, industrial and residential development
As the province slowly reopens more construction sites, employers have taken increased measures to ensure the health and safety of all workers on open construction sites. It is important that employers and employees follow these on-site practices, which will help keep yourself and others safe.
Social distancing has been at the forefront of COVID-19 safety measures. Whether out shopping, walking, or at work, maintaining a minimum distance of 6 feet/2 metres apart from another person helps prevent the spread of the virus. In addition to this minimum distance, construction workers and employers need to comply with the following distancing measures:
- Entering/exiting the job site at different times or at different locations.
- Having separate and alternate breaks/lunches.
- Restricting the number of workers on-site.
- Limiting the number of people using elevators and hoists at one time.
- Holding meetings in an outside or large space.
2. Maintaining Personal Hygiene
Here are some things that you can do to protect yourself and others:
- Wash your hands thoroughly, and as often as possible, for 20 seconds using hot soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Refrain from touching your face. In particular, your nose, mouth or eyes.
- Avoid contact from those that are sick.
- Avoid high-contact points such as railings, crosswalk poles and other highly touched surfaces.
- Use gloves, and wash the gloves after you are finished with them.
- Cough/sneeze into the crook of your elbow or on the sleeve of your shirt.
- Wear a face mask.
- Wash your clothes after you are finished with them.
3. On-Site Sanitary Stations/Products
To further ensure health and safety measures are met, the Government of Ontario also requires employers to provide the following:
- Access to first aid stations
- Access to clean washrooms—including soap and hot water (when possible)
- Access to wash basins
- Hand sanitizer
- Cleaning materials—to clean tools/equipment after use
- Sanitize commonly touched surfaces or areas (hoists, site trailers, door handles, and residential units)
- Post signage on hygiene in English, French and the majority workplace language
* If you feel that a construction site is not following these health and safety measures, please let your Business Representative know.
Something that often gets overlooked is communication. Communication helps to maintain a healthy and safe workspace. Communication is a two-way street between the employer and worker.
(1) The employer must communicate:
- current, up-to-date information on COVID-19/health and safety policies,
- roles and responsibilities of both the employer and the worker,
- procedures on how to report an illness and what to do if you get sick.
(2) The employee must communicate:
- any concerns they have in regards to their safety or the safety of others,
- any contact they have had with someone who has been infected with COVID-19,
- their health status—in particular, if they are sick.
As the status of work and workplace safety continues to change with the progression of COVID-19, it is important to keep informed with up-to-date information. One of the ways to help slow the spread of COVID-19 is to follow good workplace practices. Through individual and group efforts at the employer and worker level, the transmission of the virus will be minimized by maintaining safe-distances, maintaining personal hygiene/using PPE, using on-site sanitary stations that are provided, and maintaining effective communication between employer and worker.
If you have a specific concern about your job site, please contact your Business Representative. We are here to help.