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Coronavirus: Saskatchewan Construction Association encourages governments to ‘build on’

CMHC says it has found strong evidence of problematic conditions in Toronto, Calgary, Saskatoon and Regina.
The Saskatchewan Construction Association is asking all levels of government to fast-track construction projects during the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit/THE CANADIAN PRESS

As much of the economy slows from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Saskatchewan Construction Association (SCA) is encouraging all levels of government to keep the construction dollars flowing.

“Now is not the time to hold back on moving forward with projects,” said Mark Cooper, SCA president.

Cooper said projects are being delayed or cancelled because of safety concerns with job sites possibly spreading the novel coronavirus.

Under the provincial state of emergency, construction companies are deemed an allowable business.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Saskatchewan limits gatherings to 10 people, moves to limit more businesses

“We have an extremely safety-conscious industry to begin with,” Cooper said.

“Although the pandemic is new, the idea of having to operate safely with the appropriate equipment and all the safety measures in place is not new to the construction industry.”

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While each job site looks different, Cooper said companies are in a “comply or goodbye” environment, meaning each company has to follow public health directives.

Companies are altering schedules to minimize the number of on-site workers and management is screening employees for COVID-19 symptoms before they get on site.

“Social distancing is a requirement as much as possible,” Cooper explained. “Where that isn’t possible, making sure the appropriate PPE like glasses, masks and gloves are being worn and interaction is limited.”

READ MORE: Recent EI beneficiaries to move to federal coronavirus emergency benefit — and many will get a raise

The SCA is sharing best practices through town halls for all residential and non-residential construction companies. Cooper argued construction sites are a “very safe place right now.”

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“Because of all the steps that [the construction industry], is taking many of these jobs should and can continue,” Cooper said.

“We would encourage not only existing projects to go forward, we would also encourage governments in particular to fast track projects they have in the pipeline by moving to design phase and moving to construction where they can.”

According to SCA, there are 9,000 companies linked to Saskatchewan’s construction industry, with 53,000 employees.

READ MORE: Here’s who’s eligible and how to apply for Canada’s coronavirus wage subsidy

“[The construction industry] is the third largest contributor to GDP and the third largest employer in the province and so as long as possible keeping that industry going is vital for the success of Saskatchewan,” Cooper said.
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Cooper said anyone who is concerned about their safety on a job site should contact their employer.

All Saskatchewan workers have the right to refuse work if they deem it unsafe. By law, employers must investigate and report the refusals of work to the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety, according to SCA.

As of Friday, March 27, Cooper said there hadn’t been any refusals of work in Saskatchewan’s construction industry due to COVID-19.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers across Canada are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. In Saskatchewan, international travellers are already required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to the province.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.