All industries are facing an ongoing and fluid landscape amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Workplaces are temporarily shutting down, or have moved towards unprecedented work-at-home procedures. However, many construction jobsites remain open throughout Canada and B.C. B.C.’s Health Officer has clarified that the ban on gatherings of more than 50 people does not apply construction jobsites. Nonetheless, while the construction industry continues to operate, doing so is not without change, risk and the need to adapt.
This article will consider the following:
- What are the health and safety measures that construction sites are obliged to follow?
- What are the repercussions of noncompliance?
- Whose job is it to carry out the health and safety measures?
1. What are the health and safety measures that construction sites are obliged to follow?
The federal and provincial governments’ call for social distancing, means businesses must facilitate flexible and remote work arrangements that adapt to the pandemic. The government has issued further guidelines specific to construction sites, summarized as follows:
Developers, contractors and construction managers should keep abreast of the Province’s health and safety guidelines found at www.gov.bc.ca/COVID19. The guidelines may require adjustment of the contract time and certain milestones to ensure work can progress in accordance with health & safety measures. Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Henry, has made it clear that if businesses are not compliant with the orders in response to COVID-19, they must bring themselves within compliance or shutdown immediately. Developers, contractors and construction managers may choose to accommodate certain cost overruns and delays to achieve compliance as compliance will likely outweigh the risk of being shutdown altogether.
2. What are the repercussions of noncompliance?
B.C.’s declaration of a Public Health Emergency enables Dr. Henry to issue verbal orders and legally enforce them. Under the BC Public Health Act, individuals and corporations failing to comply with orders of the provincial health officer, are subject to accompanying penalties including fines or potential shutdown altogether.
3. Who’s job is it to carry out the health and safety measures?
The task of ensuring that proper health and safety measures are implemented may be delegated to a specific party in the construction contract chain. When the project operates under a head contract, the obligation will usually fall to the general contractor. In a CM “at risk” scenario, the obligation will likely fall to the CM. In other CM scenarios, the obligation may be split and/or shared between CM and Owner.
As always, there is no substitute for reading the actual contract and being familiar with the health & safety provisions. These provisions are key as jobsites continue to operate in the new landscape of COVID-19.