This document has been approved for circulation by the respective Co-chairs of the Provincial Labour Management Health and Safety Committee – Section 21 Construction and the Provincial Labour Management Safety Committee – Section 21 Electrical Utility
COVID-19: What you need to know about Health and Safety and Working On-Site
This document is a collection of resources, best practices and information links designed to help construction employers understand their rights and responsibilities while operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is not a legal document and all employers are advised to seek legal advice as part of their overall due diligence process.
While the situation is changing daily, the legislation and regulations used to govern Ontario’s workplaces has not. Employers still have the duty to keep workers and work sites safe and free of hazards and workers still have the right to refuse unsafe work. Effective communication of new safety procedures and policies will help ensure positive outcomes.
In order to address COVID-19 concerns find below the following resources:
COVID-19 Government Announcements
On-Site Best Practices
Additional Safety Resources and Guides
1. Covid-19 Government Announcements:
All levels of government are issuing announcements daily. To stay updated please use the following official links:
2. On-Site Best Practices
The health and safety of workers is a top concern and increased focus on health and safety is required to keep job-sites open. Below are resources, tips, and best practices employers should follow during the COVID-19 situation:
a) Personal Hygiene: Everyone can take individual steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Personal hygiene tips include:
– Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands – Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and wash your hands afterwards – Avoid commonly touched areas including handrails, public transit poles or ensure you clean your hands after – Open doors and touch elevator buttons with gloves, the back of your hand, or other body part or activate the wheelchair accessibility button with the back of your hand, elbow or knee if possible – Wash your clothes as soon as you get home – Notify your supervisor immediately if you are sick and contact public health.
b) Illness Reporting: The symptoms of COVID-19 are shared with many other illnesses including the cold and flus. At this time, it is recommended that any worker who is experiencing any symptoms should be sent home. In addition, Employer should advise all workers experiencing symptoms to complete the self-assessment on the Ontario COVID website and follow instruction there, or CALL telehealth (1-866-797-0000), your local public health unit or your family physician. Public Health is the leading authority for all issues related to COVID-19 and only they can provide detailed instructions to employees and employers. PLEASE NOTE additional resources, policies, and procedures are being developed to provide additional support in this area
c) Communicate: Communication is key, and a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities will be key. Everyone will need ensure health and safety policies are updated and posted for all employees to see. Use industry resources including those produced by the IHSA will improve on site understanding.
d) Policies: All employers need to have COVID-19 policies that are posted and communicated with to all employees and contractors/trades. This includes how the site will operate including but not limited to the sanitization of sites, how employees and contractors report illnesses, how to ensure social distancing, and how work will be scheduled.
e) Social Distancing: As outlined in several government announcements Social Distancing is required to control the spread of COVID-19. In order to ensure social distancing on site, Employers should consider the following:
– Staggered Start times – Staggered breaks – Staggered lunches – Total number of people on-site and where they are assigned to work
Site movement (where higher potential of workers gathering including personal and material hoists and site trailers)
f) On-site Sanitation: As outlined in several government documents, on-site sanitation is paramount. All employers have an obligation to increase the sanitization of sites. Areas of focus should include:
– Access to soap and water (ways to properly sanitize hands – Washroom facilities – Commonly touched surfaces or areas (hoists / site-trailers / door handles/ equipment or residential units) – Limit unnecessary on-site contact between workers and between workers and outside service providers and encourage physical distancing in these areas. (i.e.: remove coffee trucks from site)
g) Adjust On-Site and Production Schedules: In order to keep sites open, production schedules will need to change as impacts of social distancing will impact productivity. Owners and trades will need to collaborate to ensure there is a clear understanding of how production will be impacted. Schedules should consider:
– Need for social distancing including staggered work schedules – Sanitation of Sites and workspaces – Reduction of workers (i.e.: in low-rise do not schedule multiple crews in the same unit) – Work-site mobility and transportation including personal and material hoisting operations
h) Track and Monitor your workforce. Due to the latency period of COVID-19, it is important to track when workers report an illness as well as where they have worked. In the case of a positive test, Public Health will ask Employers to provide information on where an Employee worked as well as the contact information of anyone who may have been exposed. The better employers track information, the better Public Health can respond.
3. Additional Safety Resources and Guidelines
Public Health Ontario – is the leading provincial authority for the most up-to-date resources on COVID19, including:
– links to linked to evolving public health guidelines, position statements, and situational updates; – synopsis of key articles updating on the latest findings related to the virus; – recommendations for use of personal protective equipment; – testing information; and, – other public resources
Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care – is providing consistent updates on the provincial government response to the outbreak, including:
– Status of cases in Ontario; – Current affected areas; – symptoms and treatments; – how to protect yourself and self-isolate; and, – updated Ontario news on the virus
Health Canada – outlines the actions being taken by the Government of Canada, as well as what is happening in provinces and communities across the country related to the virus. It also maintains a live update of the number of confirmed cases and probable cases by province.
World Health Organization – is updating on the latest guidance and information related to the global outbreak and spread beyond Canadian borders. It also is providing the most up-to-date information on:
– current research and development around the virus; – a COVID-19 situation “dashboard”; – emergency preparedness measures; and, – live media updates on the spread of the virus
IHSA – is an excellent source of Health and Safety information and tools. https://www.ihsa.ca/COVID-19
4. Other Resources
There are a host of additional resources available to help address the ongoing COVID19 outbreak that are aimed at the construction and design industries. Resources include: