Parker: Calgary construction industry builds a plan to keep working through pandemic
Bill Black, Pres/COO Calgary Construction Association.
The office of the Calgary Construction Association is normally a busy place, with members needing to visit for day-to-day business plus attendance at CCA education seminars.
President and COO Bill Black quickly realized that due to the COVID-19 pandemic he had to manage the constant flow of people — closing the office and having his staff work from their homes.
Those members needing documentation are given a two-hour window per week, by appointment only.
But Black knew there was more to be done as his industry was moving into unknown territory and, from a safety and health perspective, was going to have to develop new protocols and best practices.
He says the construction industry is great at fixing problems and finding solutions to any challenges thrown at them, but rarely brainstorm together.
Black communicated concerns to some of the senior members of the local industry about how the industry could approach the current situation and attempt to maintain business continuity. Thanks to Zoom, he was able to hold a meeting with a number of them; no agenda, just to discuss the principal concerns of health and safety on sites and in company offices.
The decision was to create a pandemic guide for all general and trade contractors, a collective of ideas shared by members available to any size company — many of the smaller ones do not have the internal resources to react to new government regulations to keep their crews working.
According to Black, the response by leaders in the construction industry was heartening, as they shared the best practices and the experience they already had and pulled together to come up with a seven-page guide in less than a week. By the following week it had been expanded to more than 20 pages.
It outlines overall information on how COVID-19 is transmitted and general information supplied by health officials, then gives detailed advice on areas such as personal distancing. All workplaces must limit groups of workers coming together, whether it be lunch rooms, smoking areas, change rooms, etc., as well as congregating at hoists, stairwells and washroom facilities. Traffic patterns have to be controlled at trailer offices and all work areas.
The guide spells out requirements for hand washing and sanitization at facilities to meet the needs of the volume of workers on each project. It also includes a COVID-19 travel and exposure policy.
Black shared the guide with the Alberta Construction Association and it has now been made available to all of its provincial members as well as being delivered to other associations across the country.
Calgary members have enthusiastically taken to the new guide and continue to meet with each other online — one meeting attracted 185 participants — to add information and to listen to and ask questions of experts in fields such as human resources and law pertaining to the pandemic.
In addition, staff members of the Calgary Construction Association are going through the entire membership to personally telephone them to ensure they are aware of methods of communication with CCA and to see if they have any hurdles that need to be addressed.
Black and his team are leading an essential industry to work together in fully complying with government mandates to ensure job sites remain open.