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.

Small and medium businesses offered 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, a 75 per cent wage subsidy for qualifying businesses, for up to three months, retroactive to March 15. The aim of the program will be to help businesses to keep and return workers to the payroll.
“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.

CIPH urges provinces to keep plumbing and heating industries on essential list

This plumber/pipefitter is joining a number of different types of pipes with Viega ProPress.
The Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH) has written a letter to premiers and health ministers urging them to keep the plumbing and heating industry on their essential services list.
“The plumbing, industrial pipe, fittings, and heating industry plays an essential role in maintaining the health and safety of Canadians and ensuring the uninterrupted service of our nation’s water, wastewater systems, manufacturing and business operations,” said the letter, sent by Ralph Suppa, CIPH president and general manager.
These industries manufacturers and supplies products like water supply pipes, valves and fittings, wastewater pipe, kitchen, lavatory, bath and shower supply and waste fitting, toilets, plumbing fixtures, furnaces, water heaters, and boilers, to name a few. These products support hospitals, seniors’ homes, emergency services, commercial, residential and other essential businesses.
“Out industry’s workforce is critical to ensuring all necessary plumbing and heating equipment is readily available for the ongoing operations of plumbing supply and waste systems that healthcare providers and other front-line personnel depend on to safely serve communities during these pressing times,” said the letter.

Sask. details essential services and limits gatherings to 10 people

Saskatchewan is amongst the latest provinces to release a comprehensive list of essential services that are allowed to continue operating while the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing. The province has also limited the size of public and private gatherings to a maximum of 10 people. All changes are effective as of March 26.
Included in the list of essential services is construction, production, processing and manufacturing and the supporting supply chain services. This means that construction firms, services performed by tradespeople in residential and commercial installations and landscaping services, rental equipment, building maintenance, repair and housekeeping, production, processing and supply chain of the energy and oil and gas sectors, and the production, processing and supply chain of the manufacturing, are now all considered essential services.
“As we impose further restrictions to fight the spread of COVID-19, we know this creates challenges for businesses in Saskatchewan and we know that providing as much clarity as possible is important,” said Premier Scott Moe. “We are already seeing the creation of a social distancing economy in Saskatchewan as many businesses adapt their service delivery to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

B.C. establishes essential services list

A complete bathroom renovation may start with a plumbing service call.
The British Columbia government has released its list of essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The province defines essential services as daily services essential to “preserving life, health, public safety, and basic societal functioning.”
Developed by Emergency Management BC in consultation with other government ministries and the provincial health officer (PHO), services deemed essential include plumbers, fire safety and sprinkler system trades, building systems maintenance and repair technicians, engineers, mechanics, construction work, in accordance with PHO direction, construction firms, skilled trades and professionals, and construction and light industrial machinery and equipment rental. Transportation, infrastructure and manufacturing were also included on the list.

Ont. association establishes best practice guide during COVID-19 pandemic

Companies need to make sure that they are communicating any policy changes with all levels related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
The Residential Construction Council of Ontario (or RESCON) has released a “best practices” guide and urges all employers to follow it during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Safety has and always will be the industry’s top priority,” said Richard Lyall, RESCON president. “Site safety is the builders’ responsibility and they must work with sub-trades employers to ensure all on-site workers and worksites are safe.”
“As always, the Occupational Health and Safety Act allows workers to refuse unsafe work. This longstanding workplace protection has not changed,” added Patrick McManus, acting executive director with the Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association.
“As a new normal emerges and the construction industry adapts, we recommend a case-by-case and site-by-site approach to new and enhanced safety protocols, rather than a blanket approach to construction by officials.”
The RESCON best practices guide includes seven safety recommendations developed by health and safety experts. They come from a document called “COVID-19: What you need to know about Health and Safety and Working On-Site.”
They include:
Maintain good personal hygiene;
On-site sanitation – all employers have the obligation to provide access to handwashing stations with soap and water, washroom facilities, commonly touched surfaces or areas, and an increased cleaning schedule;
Practice physical distancing;
Communicate policies – employers must ensure everyone on site has a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities in health and safety;
Protect family and roommates – on-site workers should wash clothes when returning home;
Report illness to a supervisor and call public health immediately, followed by going home and self-isolating for 14 days; and
Track sick workers – this will allow employers to better inform public health professionals.
About 400,000 people work in the Ontario construction industry.