Parliamentary Precinct: Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates—June 16, 2020

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Impact of COVID-19 on the construction sites in the Parliamentary Precinct

Context

Within the Parliamentary Precinct, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) has taken steps to reduce construction activities in accordance with provincial direction and has worked directly with industry to ensure industry leading health and safety protocols are in place on the remaining active construction sites.

Key messages

Background

PSPC has taken steps to significantly reduce construction activities in the Parliamentary Precinct as a result of the announcement by the Government of Ontario on Friday, April 3, 2020 to scale back construction activity throughout the province.

In addition to continuing work on the Centre Block and the East Block, PSPC also continued emergency repairs and maintenance work to ensure the continued safe operations of parliamentary facilities. Both projects are able to facilitate appropriate social distancing and compartmentalization of the construction site, and are employing such measures as temperature monitors at entry points and requiring non-medical masks for all construction workers. This is directly aligned with Province of Ontario direction.

Construction work for projects not aligned with the revised Province of Ontario directives was paused. The 85 demobilized projects are in 3 primary categories:

On May 11, commercial construction re-opened in the province of Quebec, enabling federal construction projects in the province to recommence in alignment with measures prescribed by public health authorities.

In line with the approach directed by the province of Ontario, work continued for critical health and safety infrastructure, major public institutions, and research and security installations. On Thursday, May 14, the Government of Ontario communicated that all construction work can resume effective May 19.

PSPC continues to monitor the situation to ensure that any decision regarding construction sites respects the advice of public health officials and aligns with the Canadian Construction Association’s (CCA) standardized COVID-19 protocols for all Canadian construction sites and respective provincial and territorial government direction.

The CCA has voiced their support for keeping federal construction sites open and their workforce employed on project sites that can meet a high standard of health and safety measures and that involve defence, security, infrastructure and the administration of justice and government. Federal unions (for example, Unionized Building and Construction Trades Council) have also written to the minister directly expressing their gratitude for maintaining jobs by keeping the Parliament Hill site open specifically, noting that it is among the safest in the country.

Health and safety

For projects that are continuing, health and safety remains the number one consideration.

Over the past month, PSPC has worked closely with industry leaders and associations to move the industry toward stringent health and safety protocols in the context of COVID-19, based on prevention, detection, and response. The industry best practices published by the Canadian Construction Association are based on this collaborative work. Health and safety protocols implemented on the Centre Block and East Block adhere to the CCA best practices, including the use of temperature monitors at entrance points to the construction sites, the use of non-medical masks for all construction workers, and stringent physical distancing and hygiene practices

The Centre Block is a good illustration of how robust health and safety protocols to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transfer can be implemented in a construction site. In excess of 50,000 meters squared, the Centre Block has sufficient space and infrastructure such as stairwells, washrooms, and handwashing stations to ensure safe physical distancing practices at all times. In addition, protocols to reduce cross contamination and interaction of workers are further reducing the risk of transfer.

The types of construction activities on a site are also a key consideration. There are 2 main construction activities taking place on the Centre Block—asbestos abatement and excavation work. Asbestos abatement work requires a separated work zone and the use of respirators while excavation work enables workers to use individual excavators and back hoes.

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