The Ontario Ministry of Labour has clarified that its April 8 announcement that focused on extending work hours to permit accelerated construction of health care infrastructure also permits longer hours of work on other projects, suspending noise bylaws.
The original announcement stated, “Ontario is extending construction hours for essential construction projects, like critical projects in the health care sector, to 24 hours a day. 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 job sites.”
As explained in an article published online by Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP, the regulations that implemented the order, Regulation 130/20 under the City of Toronto Act and Regulation 131/20 under the Municipal Act, prohibited municipalities from regulating night-time construction noise not only for health care projects but also “any other construction activity between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.”
Ministry of Labour spokesperson Janet Deline confirmed April 14 that other projects besides health care builds can also now continue into the evening.
“To make residential work sites safer, the government has extended construction hours. This will allow for smaller work crews, more distance between workers, staggered break times, etc. Work on residential and other critical projects such as bridges, roads and significant industrial construction will now be allowed between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., seven days a week,” Deline wrote in an email.
Construction work on health care projects can take place 24 hours a day, Deline noted, citing “absolutely essential infrastructure” such as new hospitals, hospital expansions and COVID-19 assessment centres.”
Ontario General Contractors Association president Clive Thurston praised the extension of hours for other projects as a necessary measure to ensure workplace safety.
“It is welcome because it allows more shift work, it allows us to spread the workforce out,” he said. “I think B.C. is doing it, it is a smart move. It does help us with our health and safety and it helps to minimize the risk as much as we can. But we do need some more clarification.”
The Singleton article said the firm has learned of non-health care projects currently in operation under the Essential Business exemption where the order is being used to order the acceleration of construction work, regardless of the work being related to COVID-19 or not.
“The requirement to ‘accelerate’ in the extended construction hours must be considered in light of the requirements of the Ontario regulation. In particular, work should only be ‘accelerated’ so long as it is safe to do so,” the advisory stated.
The lawyers “advise caution and speaking to a lawyer so that you understand what it means to ask a contractor or subcontractor to accelerate or, if you are the recipient of such a request, what your rights are in the circumstances.”