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ALL construction in Ontario TO RESUME: Aitken, McGlogan, Sell weigh in

May 14, 2020 | By Anthony Capkun

May 14, 2020 – It’s the news many of us in Ontario have been eagerly waiting to hear: the construction industry will no longer shackled by “essential workplace” limits. Translation? ALL construction activities will resume in the province at 12:01 am, May 19.

“This is welcome news to our members,” said Stephen Sell of the Ontario Electrical League (OEL). “Although electrical work is essential, it has not been clear to some contractors as to what work they can do and [for] what work they would need to wait.”

Stephen Sell, president, Ontario Electrical League.

“Our priority has always been the health & safety of our workers and the public. If we can achieve that, then we should be at work,” noted Graeme Aitken of the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario (ECAO). “Our members are prepared to get back in the action.”

“I believe [this news] will be welcomed by EFC members,” said Carol McGlogan of Electro-Federation Canada, which represents Canada’s electrical manufacturers, distributors and agents. “[Our] members are responsible business leaders who will ensure that the recommended protocols are put in place to serve customers safely.”


Earlier today, Premier Ford announced the province is moving into Stage 1 of reopening the economy, and provided a list of retailers, seasonal businesses and health & community service providers who will be permitted to open or expand their services on May 19, 2020, at 12:01 am—provided, of course, that the general trend on health indicators continues to improve as part of the Stage 1 reopening framework.

Graeme Aitken, executive director, Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL LIST of Stage 1 businesses (PDF) involved in reopening the economy.

How deep was the cut?

Despite being an essential service, the electrical community has had its share of woes.

Of her membership, McGlogan says EFC’s weekly survey shows “over 60% of manufacturers and distributors are down at least 20% on a year-to-date basis, and some in each case down over 50%. There are variances on performance, depending on the markets served by each member”.

Carol McGlogan, president & CEO, Electro-Federation Canada.

She reminds us that the YTD numbers are only one indicator. “The concern is that the recovery will take a very long time, as building permits have stalled and our industry serves others who are suffering greatly and will not have the capital to upgrade or expand their businesses. [This] will continue to put downward pressure on the electrical industry.”

Aitken pointed to a recent survey conducted by the Greater Toronto Electrical Contractor Association, which determined that the electrical contracting industry’s response to coronavirus had a 12% impact on productivity, and that profitability was subsequently affected by up to 100%.

But he tipped his hat to ECAO’s labour partners. “James Barry and the IBEW-CCO have been a tremendous partner throughout all of this.”

Sell says that most contractors with whom he has spoken have reduced the amount of work they are doing. “Some smaller contractors have stopped working altogether until things opened up. They will be pleased that they can go back to work on Tuesday.”

Ford offers no illusions

Premier Ford made it abundantly clear that the government will be following the numbers and monitoring health trends, and that “Businesses should open ONLY if they are ready”. Should the health situation fall off the rails…

But Aitken doesn’t think it will be the construction industry that falls off the rails.

He pointed to recent WSIB numbers that confirm what Premier Ford said in today’s press conference: there have been no COVID cases in the construction industry in Ontario. “While some may be surprised by this outcome, we were not. We approach every job with hazard analysis and risk assessment, and that includes COVID.”

“We’ve been putting out all kinds of resources to our members since [the lockdown] began […] We’ve been preparing them for the return to work ever since it stopped,” said Aitken, who is also very pleased the government launched a new website for sourcing PPE “because not all jobs can accommodate physical distancing requirements”.

What does the new normal look like?

The government says both it and health & safety associations have released more than 90 safety guidance documents to assist employers in multiple sectors, including construction, retail, facilities maintenance and manufacturing. As new sectors of the economy begin to reopen, additional resources will be made available to help protect the safety of workers and the general public.

“Ontario’s labour laws are clear: businesses must protect the health & safety of workers, including against workplace hazards like COVID-19. That’s why our ministry has released practical safety guidelines, doubled our capacity to help people by phone and hired more inspectors. We want to ensure everyone is safe at work,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training & Skills Development.

(As the Province of Ontario opens up the entire construction industry next week, we suggest setting aside 17 minutes to listen to health & safety expert Tom Mackay, CRSP, NCSO for some jobsite best practices.)

The public should continue to adhere to public health measures, including practising physical distancing or wearing a face covering when physical distancing is difficult or not possible, as well as regular handwashing and staying home when ill, the government reminds us.

“Many [EFC members] already have processes in place for touch-free interactions with customers and colleagues,” McGlogan added. “I think the state of readiness will depend on how quickly members executed on their purchasing activities as it relates to the plexi screens and personal protective equipment, etc. I believe the new normal will continue with many industry members working from home, as there may not be enough physical space within many offices to accommodate everyone.”

“Our new normal will require novel approaches to bidding jobs, jobsite planning, and training workers on correct use and care of PPE,” Aitken stated.

“The silver lining that has come with this pandemic is the realization that much can be done from home, given the technology we are now equipped with,” McGlogan adds. “Although we miss seeing each other in person, the savings in time and energy by avoiding commuting and travel is incredible. Companies will be rethinking work-from-home and travel policies when this is all over.”

On the subject of bidding and contracts, Aitken explained ECAO has been supporting the Canadian Construction Association in its lobbying efforts to get government to lead the way in construction contracts by including provisions for additional COVID-related costs that could be unforeseen by any party.

And he cautions: “We cannot take our foot off the gas. Construction has been the gold standard for maintaining the health & safety of its workforce during this crisis, and we have to maintain our efforts”.

More information

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL LIST of Stage 1 businesses (PDF) involved in reopening the economy.

As an added bonus, the government also announced additional seasonal services and activities will be permitted to open as early as May 16, 2020, at 12:01 am (Victoria Day Long Weekend):

• Golf courses will be able to open, with clubhouses open only for washrooms and restaurants open only for take-out.

• Marinas, boat clubs and public boat launches may open for recreational use.

• Private parks and campgrounds may open to enable preparation for the season and to allow access for trailers and recreational vehicles whose owners have a full season contract.

• Businesses that board animals, such as stables, may allow boarders to visit, care for or ride their animal.

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