By Nadia Todorova
RCCAO was pleased to participate in an industry webinar on Mitigating the Spread of COVID-19 in Construction on January 28.
The event featured a number of speakers and panelists providing valuable perspectives on the pandemic and issues facing construction, as well as how to stay safe on worksites.
Labour, Training and Skills Development Minister Monte McNaughton provided a keynote address and noted that the construction industry is weathering the COVID-19 pandemic in large part because employers, labour and government are all on the same page.
“From the start, we’ve really had a strong partnership – government, labour, management and industry – and to be quite frank that is exactly why the construction industry, for the most part, has remained open during the entire pandemic,” he said. “You’re building our hospitals, testing centres, putting roofs over the heads of many, many families, and we just thank you for all of that.”
He shared some of the actions that have been taken to deal with the pandemic, including hiring 100 new inspectors in addition to 500 already in the field.
“Our primary and unwavering priority is the safety of workers and the public at large,” he said. “When we maintain safe jobsites, we know that we are protecting and allowing businesses to continue operating.”
The Minister’s remarks reflected the government’s support and leadership during the pandemic which have been vital to the industry and Ontarians.
The decisive and methodical approach taken by government, along with the enhanced health and safety guidelines the ministry developed, has ensured that construction can continue to work safely.
In addition to Minister McNaughton, the webinar featured presentations by Chief Prevention Officer (CPO) Ron Kelusky and Mike Sherrard, founding partner of Sherrard Kuzz LLP.
In his presentation, CPO Kelusky said that construction was heavily impacted during the first few months of the pandemic, but it was re-opened in mid-May after it was deemed to be relatively low risk.
Statistics up to early December showed that of 11,000 WSIB-approved COVID-19 claims in 2020, only 90 were from construction.
Despite the relatively low transmission rates in construction, CPO Kelusky warned that the industry must remain vigilant as new variants of the virus are much more easily transmitted than the original strain.
Mike Sherrard gave a legal update and talked about testing, enforcement, liability, and vaccinations. He noted that on-site handwashing, masking and physical distancing must continue.
Panelists at the webinar discussed how businesses should operate and protect workers during COVID-19.
Following the presentations by Ron and Mike, a panel discussion was held with four health and safety representatives who addressed various topics related to COVID-19.
The panel discussion was moderated by RCCAO board chair Peter Smith.
The panelists included:
- John Savoia, director of health and safety at the Powell Group
- Jason Ottey, director of government relations and communications at LiUNA Local 183
- Jon Kitancevski, director, health and safety at The Daniels Corporation
- Darrin Husack, environmental health and safety manager at ConDrain Group
A big takeaway from the discussion was that a COVID-related health and safety plan is a good first step to making worksites safer. Employers must make sure that all workers understand the plan and workers must also abide by the rules and protocols.
As I reiterated in my closing remarks at the webinar, it is imperative that we remain vigilant in the workplace and at home – and not give in to complacency.
The construction industry must continue to collaborate as everyone has the same end goal – to stay safe and healthy.
Click here to listen to a recording of the webinar.