Handwashing on the increase prior to coronavirus, says survey

The coronavirus pandemic may have helped increase the number of people washing their hands more frequently, reports Bradley Corp., Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, in its annual Healthy Hand Washing survey. In January the company polled 1,005 adults and youth about germs, the flu, colds and handwashing habits.
In 2009, when the H1N1 virus was infecting people around the world, only about 45 per cent of Americans said they washed their hands more frequently or thoroughly in response to the flu virus outbreak. By 2019, the number of flu-fighting hand washers in the U.S. rose to 79 per cent.
This year, the concern about hand hygiene has increased. Today, 60 per cent of Americans are extremely or quite concerned about catching the flu, compared to just 32 per cent who felt that way four years prior.
When the national or international focus shifts towards outbreaks, it has an effect on hand hygiene, with 50 per cent of Americans saying that news coverage of cold and flu outbreaks has a “very large” or “somewhat large” impact on their handwashing behaviour. Women and their handwashing habits are most likely to be impacted by news coverage.
“The steady rise in hand washing diligence in America may, in part, stem from several stand-out flu seasons over the past decade – particularly flu outbreaks in 2009, 2015 and 2018,” said Jon Dommisse, Bradley Corp. director of strategy and corporate development. “Now, the unprecedented spread of coronavirus has placed an even more intense spotlight on the critical nature of thorough handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.”
The survey began 11 years ago and from the findings, it showed that handwashing signage, clean and stocked washrooms, and touchless handwashing fixtures encouraged hand washing in public washrooms.
“Handwashing in America has undoubtedly improved over the past 11 years but coronavirus is a real handwashing game-changer,” Dommisse said. “We must all remember that hand washing is among the most important actions to protect our loved ones, our communities and ourselves.”
For more information, please visit www.bradleycorp.com/handwashing.

Ontario clamps down on non-essential construction

The Ontario government has updated its list of essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The list of businesses classified as essential has been reduced.
Only critical construction projects have been deemed allowed to continue, including industrial projects such as refineries and petrochemical plants and infrastructure projects such as new hospitals, roads and bridges. New starts in residential projects will stop, while residential construction that is near completion will continue.
The association representing the residential construction industry in Ontario has agreed with the province’s decision and described it as “balanced and appropriate.”
“We are pleased by the government’s decision to keep certain residential construction going,” said Richard Lyall, president of Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). “As the premier has rightly noted, there are many people who are waiting for their homes to be finished in the next few weeks. We already have a significant housing crisis in Ontario and most of these homeowners who have sold their homes are at risk of being left on the street without these measures.”
All businesses not covered by the updated Emergency Order are required to close by April 4 at 11:59 p.m. These new restrictions will be in effect for 14 days, with the possibility of an extension as the situation unfolds.
“We are facing a critical moment in the fight against COVID-19 and we must do everything in our power to keep everyone safe and healthy and prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed,” said Ont. Premier Doug Ford.
“Everyone must do their part to stop the spread and flatten the curve. If you are not an essential business, you need to close your doors, work from home if possible and play a role to help contain this outbreak. This is a matter of life and death.”
The updated list will direct additional businesses to close and restricts specified businesses to providing services by alternate methods such as curbside pick and delivery, except for exceptional circumstances.
For the full updated list, visit www.ontario.ca/page/list-essential-workplaces#section-10.

IAPMO looking for hydronics committee volunteers

Good design and installation from the beginning reduces troubleshooting later. Dale’s Plumbing, Courtney, B.C., laid down this hydronic slab floor for a storage facility in Parksville, B.C., using 3.55 kilometers of three-quarter inch Vipert oxygen barrier pipe made in Burnaby, B.C. by CB Supplies.
The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) is asking for volunteers with technical background in hydronic systems and specific knowledge of heat transfer fluid treatment to participate on the Hydronic Standards Committee. The committee will work on the development of IAPMO H1001.1 as an American National Standard. The deadline to submit the application is May 8.
Applications can be completed online at the Standards Development web page.
The scope of the standard is to establish and maintain hydronic system heat transfer fluid quality over the life of the system. The volunteers should be jurisdictional authorities, testing lab and educational facility representatives, or HVAC experts.
“Hydronic heating and cooling systems can reach some of the highest efficiencies of all space conditioning systems available today. However, some hydronic systems fail to reach or maintain their highest potential efficiencies due to poor water quality establishment and maintenance practices,” said an IAPMO release.
The Hydronic Standard Committee members will be responsible for the development of new American National Standards relating to hydronic systems and for the content and processing of public review comments.
For more information, contact Les Nelson at 909-218-8112 or by email at les.nelson@iapmo.org.

Contractor association calls upon Canadian government to support construction sector 

The Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada (MCAC) is calling upon federal and provincial governments to present a united message with regards to how the COVID-19 pandemic has been affecting contracting companies.
In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, MCAC states that they are supportive of the measures taken to date to address the outbreak. “As with all industries across Canada, the COVID-19 pandemic is having a disruptive effect on Canada’s mechanical contracting sector. Given the important work out members undertake we are committed to ensuring our workplaces and work sites remain safe for employees, customers, partners, and workers,” said the letter signed by Dave Holek, president and chair of MCAC.
MCAC is asking that provincial and national health authorities work closely with subtrade associations to help establish and enforce clear health and safety protocols. In addition, it wants governments to recognize that the pandemic is an event beyond the control of contractors and that any construction delays as a result should be regarded as beyond their control. Or, in other words, contractors should not be held liable for delays and missed deadlines caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and its related closures.
MCAC is also asking for the federal government to support the mechanical contracting sector by ensuring financial support for those construction firms affected by the closure of construction sites and any project delays as a result of the pandemic.

Ont. working from heights course given extra year to renew

The Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development is giving workers in the construction sector an extra year to renew their mandatory working at heights certification.
It is anticipated that more than 120,000 workers are due to have their certificates expire over the next six months. However, many training providers have either cancelled classes or shut down due to COVID-19. The extension will apply to workers who successfully completed their working at heights training between February 28 and August 31, 2017. The certificates, normally good for three years, will now expire in 2021.
“The extension will ensure affected workers can continue to work when possible,” according to the Ontario website.

Manitoba deems construction an essential service

Andrew Fleetwood, left, and PCL Agile senior construction manager Terry Olynyk with the hospital bathroom module prototype.
Manitoba has released its full list of essential services that will continue to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it includes construction businesses.
The list includes a business engaged in construction work or services in the industrial, commercial, institutional and residential sectors – including demolition services and expanding, renovating, converting or repurposing existing spaces, a business engaged in construction work or services that are required to ensure safe and reliable operations of provincial and municipal infrastructure, a business engaged in construction work or services that support an environmental rehabilitation project, institutional, residential, commercial and industrial maintenance, a business that provides support and maintenance services – including urgent repair to maintain the safety, security, sanitation and essential operation of institutional, commercial, industrial and residential properties – and includes property management services, the skilled trades, custodial services, fire safety and sprinkler system installation and service, and similar service providers.

Details released for federal small-business relief during COVID-19 pandemic

Justin Trudeau makes an announcement to press while he is in self-isolation due to his wife testing positive for COVID-19, which lays out support to small and medium-sized businesses.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced additional measures to support small businesses in dealing with the economic impacts of the pandemic. The announcement came on March 27 and was part of the federal government’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, which commits $107 billion in support to Canadians so they can buy groceries, pay rent, and care for loved ones during this difficult time.
As part of the announcement, 75 per cent of the first $58,700 earned  by each individual will be covered for qualifying businesses, for up to three months, retroactive to March 15. The aim of the program will be to help businesses keep and return workers to the payroll. Any business with at least a 30 per cent revenue decrease because of COVID-19 qualifies. The number of employees at a business does not matter and will apply to non-profits, charities and large and small companies.
“The announcement of a 75 per cent wage subsidy for small/medium employers affected by the COVID-19 crisis will not help every company or employee, but will help small firms retain hundred of thousands of workers who would otherwise be laid off,” explains Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
The complete details on eligibility have not be released but is expected before the end of March. Businesses will be allowed to defer all goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) payments until June; this will include self-employed individuals.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and an important source of good jobs across this country,” explained Trudeau. “They are facing economic hardship and uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that is why we are taking action now to help them get the financial help they need to protect their workers and pay their bills.”
A new program will be launched called “Canada Emergency Business Account,” which will provide up to $25 billion to eligible financial institutions to provide interest-free loans to small businesses. This will provide funding to eligible financial institutions so that they can provide interest-free loans in the form of lines of credit of up to $40,000 to businesses with payrolls of less than $1 million. A quarter of this loan is eligible for complete forgiveness. “The interest-free loans for small businesses through the Canada Emergency Business Account will be of assistance to firms struggling with ongoing fixed costs, particularly with the news that up to $10,000 will be forgivable,” said Kelly, in a press release.
In addition, Trudeau announced the new “Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Loan and Guarantee” program. This will enable up to $40 billion in lending, supported through Export Development Canada and Business Development Bank. This is intended for small and medium-sized companies that require greater help to meet their operational cash flow requirements. This will provide guarantees to financial institutions so that they can issue new operating credit and cash flow term loans of up to $6.25 million. These loans will be 80 per cent guaranteed and to be repaid within one year.
Additionally, the government will provide eligible small employers with a temporary wage subsidy for a period of three months. This will be equal to 10 per cent of remuneration paid during that period, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer.
The federal government also deferred the payment of income taxes until after August 31.
These measures all come on the same day the Bank of Canada cut its benchmark interest rates by 50 basis point to 0.25 per cent.

Alta. releases list of essential services

Alberta has declared the construction industry an essential service.
Projects and services associated with the healthcare sector, required to ensure safe and reliable operations of critical provincial and municipal infrastructure, demolition services, support health and safety environmental rehabilitation projects, that repair or render operable/safe any public elevators, escalators or ski lifts, that are required to ensure safe and reliable operations of critical energy infrastructure or support supply chains, and can safely abide by the CMOH Public Health guidelines/directives, are considered an essential service.
The intent of the list is to provide general guidance to business owners and operators, and it is not meant to be exhaustive. The plumbing and HVAC/R industry is represented on the list as part of the “other essential businesses” section of the announcement under “businesses that support the safe operations of residences and essential businesses.”
If a business type isn’t specifically listed as prohibited to operate, that business can continue operations. Workplaces that are not restricted or ordered to close can have more than 15 workers on a work site, as long as they follow all public health guidelines – including physical distancing.
Employers should self assess and find alternative ways to organize large meetings, should cancel workplace gatherings of 15 or more, employ mitigation strategies to limit risk, and continue business continuity planning to prepare critical operations for any potential interruption.

Ont. sets guidelines to protect construction jobsites

Ontario released updated guidelines for the construction industry March 29 to help employers understand their responsibility and what is needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on the jobsite. If a construction jobsite fails to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, an inspector could issue a stop work order, reported the chief prevention officer.
“The health and safety of construction workers is a top priority for our government,” said Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s minister of labour, training, and skills development, in a press release. “With the COVID-19 situation changing day by day, we are working to ensure that workers have the tools they need to help keep jobsites safe. We must do everything possible to fight the spread of this disease.” Ministry inspectors are still inspecting jobsites during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The updates follow an initial guidance document circulated in March and addresses sector topics, such as:
providing better on-site sanitation – including a focus on high-touch areas like site trailers, door handles and hoists;
communicating roles, responsibilities, and health and safety policies by posting site sanitizing schedules and work schedules;
enabling greater distances between workers by staggering shifts, restricting site numbers and limiting elevator usage; and
protecting public health by tracking and monitoring workers.
Under Ontario law, employers must take every “reasonable precaution” to keep the jobsite safe. Workers have the right to refuse unsafe work.
If health and safety concerns are not resolved internally, a worker can seek enforcement by filing a complaint with the ministry’s Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008.

Canadian HVAC manufacturer switches gears to make COVID-19 facemasks

50 Napoleon employees will be working with a local Barrie, Ont. medical supplies company to produce face shields for the medical community.
Napoleon has halted the manufacturing of the grills, fireplaces and HVAC equipment that it is known for to focus on making face shields amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Based in Barrie, Ont., the company has teamed up with a local medical supply manufacturer to help meet the surging demand for essential medical equipment. The medical supply company had to increase production on short notice, and they needed a qualified workforce.
There are 50 Napoleon employees at the company’s Barrie plant, covering four shifts each day including midnights. The team is providing support in the areas of material handling, machine operations, assembly, engineering, and quality control.
“We wanted to help. However, our facilities are not set up for the product required for medical equipment so we quickly found how we can help by partnering with a local medical equipment producer. We have trained and re-focused Napoleon manufacturing workers to really help medical equipment colleagues deliver on surging demand at a critical time” reported Stephen Schroeter, Co-CEO for Napoleon. “We are so proud of our team for their willingness to volunteer to help where help is needed and put themselves on the frontline of this crisis.”
The Napoleon team is primarily focused on assembling and packaging face shields, which provide a wide range of protective coverage for healthcare workers including splash protection, significantly reducing the risk of contamination and protecting them against high-level diseases, such as COVID-19.