CALGARY, ALTA – As the federal government weighs its options to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, Alberta builders are urging officials to keep job sites open.
In a letter to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, the Alberta Construction Association (ACA) and eight local construction associations called on the province to not suspend construction work.
“There are different groups looking to the government to suggest shutting down construction as an industry. The federal government has already pushed that off to provinces and suggested it’s a province by province issue,” said Frederick Vine, ACA chairman in an interview with the Journal of Commerce.“We are reaching out to say that we don’t think at this time it’s good to shut down completely. Providing ongoing work for workers and keeping the economic engine going. The right thing to do is keep it going if we can.”
Vine emphasized that many sites in the province are large and have occupancies far less dense than office buildings or manufacturing facilities.
He noted that already sites have been getting workers to maintain safe distances, staggering breaks in 20 minute increments in small groups and telling workers to eat their lunch in their own vehicles rather than trailers.
“Probably starting next week a lot of sites will start surveying and screening workers as they come onsite, including temperature testing,” said Vine. “It’s a very challenging moving target, but the industry is very adaptive in dealing with these challenges. Our focus is mantining worker safety and maintaining sites as much as possible.”
Vine also praised the province’s efforts to roll out new infrastructure projects.
“It is the right move for the time being and we are encouraged by that,” said Vine.
Alberta construction industry leaders have met and released a living document that the community intends to continue to update as more information becomes available so industry has the information it needs to keep workers safe on sites.
Documents being provided include a best practices pandemic planning document detailing processes for managing sites and offices as well as a closedown checklist tool should sites close down that will assist in all the planning and activity that would be required if this occurs. The Calgary Construction Association (CCA) has also been hard at work on tools for people to maintain their mental health.
“Among all the work-related activity and family care etc please take time to care for yourselves,” wrote CCA president Bill Black in a message to members. “We are working on some information and tools relative to our mental health and that of our teams and will be making these available next week as we continue to do all that we can to support our members and our colleagues through this.”