At Tribute Communities’ recently completed Max and Stanley condominium projects in downtown Toronto, security guards did double duty as elevator operators.
It’s a role they will also perform at the firm’s 25-storey U.C. Tower in Oshawa once the building has been enclosed and finishing trades can begin using its elevators, says health and safety manager Ketan Patel.
At the two Toronto condos, the guards controlled the number of trades entering the elevators, enforced masking/distancing restrictions, and even operated the control panels to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread, he says.
With the exception of break times, which were covered by company staff, the guards were on duty for the entire work day which normally lasted from 6 am to 4 pm, he says.
In pre-COVID times’ the transition from using hoists, scaffolding, and other lifting devices to elevators is fairly seamless and not an issue. Following the outbreak of the pandemic, however, Tribute began posting a security guard at each of the three elevators in the Toronto towers. “Elevators are, after all, enclosed spaces,” he points out.
At first, this extra layer of security did generate some frustration among the trades. “But they became use to it.”
If a subcontractor previously required 15 minutes for transporting employees and material to get to a specific area, then they allocated 25 minutes. The goal was not to slow the pace of construction and to keep a project on schedule, staggered starting times were used. Trades with a high number of employees entering the towers also had first priority over those with only a handful, he says.
There was also increased emphasis on scheduling work so that various trades would have a floor to themselves to maintain the physical separation. For example, tile setters might be working on one floor, trim carpenters on the floor below, and cabinet installers on the subsequent floor.
Depending on the size of a Tribute project, the trades typically work on a “cycle”. For example, if a four-day cycle is in, each trade moves up a floor every four days, he says.
Signage also plays a key part in pandemic control and at the U.C. Tower there are a number of passive screening, elevator capacity, distancing, and hand washing signs, says Patel.
The use of security guards and the elevators and the strict separation of the trades was one of a number of measures the company has implemented. In the early days of the pandemic, its COVID-19 Response Team, in conjunction with other members of RESCON, also volunteered to participate in the Ontario Provincial Antigen Screening Program. Through the program, rapid antigen screening tests are distributed to enhance existing routine screening measures. Weekly testing at Tribute’s sites was conducted by a third party health and safety consultant, he says.
There is less focus on the rapid testing with the full rollout of vaccines and the feedback Tribute has been receiving from its subcontractors is that most of their employees have been double vaccinated, says Patel.
“Like most in the industry we were caught unprepared,” says Patel on the company’s initial response to the pandemic.
However, a one page Pandemic Response Plan developed in the early days of the pandemic has evolved into a 38-page document with sections devoted to preventative, detection, and response measures, plus a return to work protocol, he says.