COVID-19: Is Construction An Essential Service?

The Province of Ontario has mandated another round of shutdowns to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  Construction has been deemed an essential service and will continue to operate.  Many will disagree with this decision.

Is construction essential at the moment?  Yes and No.  Some projects could shut down for two or three weeks and it would make little difference.

In other cases, continuing construction is vital.  Here are some of the situations we’re seeing at the moment:

  • A homeowner has moved out of their house and they are renting.  Their project is close to completion, and they have to move out of their rental shortly.  They cannot get an extension on their rental.  If the project is put on hold, they will be homeless.
  • Deck project, partially complete.  Decking complete, but railing not on yet.  Leaving a deck without railing presents a significant danger to the residents of the house.
  • Homeowner wants to retrofit their home to move their elderly parents out of an extended care facility, and into their home.  They need to build an accessible bath, and add a stair lift.  Or make the choice of leaving their parents in a vulnerable facility.
  • House addition under construction, and the exterior has to be made water-tight to prevent damage.  Extended water infiltration would cause irreparable damage.

What we’re doing:

  1. Our employees and trade contractors can decline to work if they wish.  Some have decided to self-isolate.  We respect their decision, and they will be welcomed back when they feel it is safe to return.
  2. For projects where the homeowner is living in their home, we are assessing whether it makes sense to continue work, or if it is better to put the work on hold for a while.  If we do need to continue to work, additional safety measures will be put in place.
  3. We are limiting the number of workers on the jobsite to promote social distancing.  In most cases, we are having one or two workers on site on any given day.  The days of having 5 or 10 workers on a jobsite are over, for now.
  4. Our staff are being educated on the importance of distancing and sanitizing, and we are checking with them to ensure there are adequate supplies available.

Fortunately, most of our current work is in vacant homes, or is exterior work – where it is easier to maintain distance, and interaction with homeowners is minimal or non-existent.