Ontario Premier Doug Ford has announced that critical health-care construction projects will be accelerated to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
As well, Ford said during his daily address April 8, inspection efforts to ensure workplace health and safety will be ramped up with new inspectors deployed and retired inspectors encouraged to return to work.
Construction hours for “essential construction projects, like critical projects in the health care sector,” will be extended to 24 hours per day, the province announced. A release explained that work on new hospital builds, expansions and COVID-19 assessment centres “will be able to continue any time of the night or day in order to help accelerate the construction of these important projects and enable employers to take additional steps to protect the health and safety of workers on these jobsites.”
“We are extending hours of construction to get these structures built faster, to get the hospitals built faster, to get more beds and capacity into the system,” Ford said during his afternoon speech to the province.
“That includes assessment centres and temporary structures needed to prepare for any surge in COVID-19 cases.”
Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton followed up to lay out the measures being taken to add to the workforce of inspectors.
The province will redeploy more than 30 employment standards officers to help businesses understand and comply with health and safety requirements, double the capacity of Ontario’s Health and Safety Call Centre from 25 to 50 phonelines and issue new guidance notes to support specific sectors.
The province will also step up its collaboration with health and safety associations to solicit help from up to 30 specialists to support employers and workers in the inspection field.
“This is truly public service,” McNaughton said of the work done by the inspectors in problem workplaces.
“Our inspectors are going into places, they are sorting those problems out, they are working with employers and employees and encouraging parties to work together.
“Where warranted, they are shutting workplaces down.”
Other measures to enable longer hours of work on health care construction jobs will include mitigating noise bylaws.
“We’re helping to protect the health and safety of construction workers and ensure that critical health care-related construction projects continue during this outbreak,” said Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark in a statement. “Temporarily limiting noise bylaws to extend the hours for construction work will help make it possible to stagger shifts and have fewer workers on site at any given time so they can practise physical distancing.”
Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province will also build new assessment centres and field hospitals.
“Extended hours will ensure that work on these facilities continues safely to the benefit of all Ontarians,” said Elliott.
A list of essential workplaces in the construction sector unveiled by the premier April 3 included construction projects and services associated with the health care sector, including new facilities, expansions, renovations and conversion of spaces that could be repurposed for health care space.
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