By Andrew Macklin

In March, everything changed. The construction industry, like the rest of Canada, suddenly woke up to a world being ravaged by a fast-spreading pandemic, one that had already taken a significant human toll in China.

Fast forward a few months and the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our country. But thanks to the quick response from the construction industry, many sites are back up and running, with new safety measures in place to create a healthy work environment.

Construction’s new health and safety regime was the focus on a conversation hosted by ReNew Canada in partnership with the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON), the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA), and LiUNA. The discussion focused on the work that has been done since those initial hours when the pandemic began to impact Canada, and the resulting changes to construction both at the jobsite and in the classroom.

RESCON Vice-President Andrew Pariser noted that, when coronavirus was initially recognized as a health issue that would impact construction in Ontario, his organization joined together with the IHSA, construction unions, and the Ministry of Labour to discuss how best to address the issue. “We quickly used existing networks to understand the hazard and to figure out ways to eliminate and/or mitigate it.”

Sandro Pinto, executive director of the LiUNA 183 training centres, mentioned that the flurry of reporting from the mainstream media created cause for concern. Workers started to react to the news and confusion ensued, as a sense of unease not knowing what would happen next settled in.

It wasn’t long before those issues were addressed, as Enzo Garritano and his team at IHSA quickly began working to address the key issues caused by the pandemic, including measures to establish physical distancing and introducing new cleaning regimes. Garritano, IHSA’s CEO, noted that when the new set of industry health and safety guidelines were released, they had been vetted by all of the key stakeholders in the labour and health sectors.

The result of the hard work from organizations like the IHSA and RESCON was one of the first new sets of health and safety guidelines released in any sector following the COVID-19 outbreak.

To learn more about the new realities of health and safety in the construction industry, watch for the full-length feature on our industry discussion, set to appear in ReNew Canada’s September/October edition.

Andrew Macklin is the managing editor of ReNew Canada.

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