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Labour, OH&S

Chilliwack, B.C. developer puts down tools for worker safety

Warren Frey
Chilliwack, B.C. developer puts down tools for worker safety

The Government of British Columbia has deemed construction an essential service during the COVID-19 outbreak, but one Chilliwack, B.C. company is laying down its tools.

Algra Brothers Developments announced recently it is shutting down its Five Corners project in the city’s downtown along with other projects.

“The number one reason we did this is it’s not possible on our job sites to 100 per cent abide to the social distancing requirements we’re being advised to live by,” Algra Brothers Developments partner and sales and development manager Dave Algra said.

“If you look at statistics where people survived the epidemic in a good way it’s all countries where people took the social distancing requirements seriously,” he added.

Demographics and pre-existing health concerns also influenced their decision, Algra said.

“A lot of our workforce is over age of 45 and a high percentage of them smoke, which makes their outcome a lot more grim if they do contract the virus, so there’s an increased risk there, and they all have family members who are immune compromised or elderly,” he added.

Shutting down the site involved similar procedures to securing the site at the end of a normal workday, Algra said.

“We had a discussion to make sure the site is safe, and it’s the same procedure we would do at night. We have to let our insurance know what we’re doing and have night security,” he explained.

Not all of Algra Brothers staff is off the job, he said, as some office employees are still able to work from home.

“Our design staff and marketing staff were able to take computers home and (we were able to) employ a work from home scenario for a small amount of staff, but the rest of our actual employees got records of employment so they can apply for employment insurance but we have 60 to 90 tradespeople who are subcontractors or employed by subs,” Algra said.

He added he’d heard from several subs they were getting “a ton of pressure to work on certain job sites and were quite relieved we shut down.”

“It’s been an issue with them, especially with transport. Working downtown and car-pooling four to five guys in a van, it’s not a good situation,” Algra said.

Algra said the shutdown boils down to common sense given the current situation.

“We don’t see construction as an essential business. It’s obviously important for our economy but day to day it’s not essential and we should just be smart,” he said.

“When we’re able to provide compliance with whatever social distancing or mitigation the government requires us to follow, we’ll do so, and when that changes, we’ll be back in business,” Algra added

“We’re getting almost daily updates from the B.C. government on what to do to keep job sites safe. We all know what’s coming and we know the other areas moving to an essential services scenario. Rather than try to eke out activity, the sooner we abide by these rules, the sooner we’ll be able to get back to work,” Algra said. 

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