Construction and COVID-19 safety
WorkSafeBC is aware of the important concerns raised by the construction industry. We are working with workers, employers, and industry associations to ensure construction sites are healthy and safe during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Prevention officers are providing information to workers and employers through worksite inspections focusing on the controls that the employer can use to limit exposure, including maintaining distance between workers and ensuring adequate hygiene facilities. We are continuing to engage in inspection, consultation, and education activities within the construction sector to ensure everyone in the workplace are fulfilling their obligations.
WorkSafeBC’s Preventing exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace provides general information that all employers may use to assess the risks and controls in their workplace.
The role of prime contractors, employers, and sub-contractors
Prime contractors have specific responsibilities for health and safety and must ensure that the activities of employers, workers, sub-contractors and other parties at the workplace are coordinated. The prime contractor is also required to do everything that is reasonably practicable to establish and maintain a system or process that will ensure the compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and the Workers Compensation Act.
Construction employers and sub-contractors are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of workers by putting policies and procedures in place to keep workers healthy and safe, and providing workers with up-to-date instructions, training, and supervision on those policies and procedures.
Prime contractors, employers, and sub-contractors must have a mechanism in place for workers to raise issues and concerns about COVID-19 exposure so that additional precautions and controls can be put in place where required.
Controlling the risk of COVID-19 exposure
Construction employers must take all necessary precautions to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission and illness to themselves, workers, and others at the workplace. This includes:
- Implementing a policy requiring anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, such as sore throat, fever, sneezing, or coughing to self-isolate at home for 10 days from the onset of symptoms, as well as anyone advised by public health to self-isolate
- Maintaining a distance of two metres between workers wherever possible by revising work schedules, organizing work tasks, posting occupancy limits on elevators, and limiting the number of workers at one time in break locations
- Adjusting practices to encourage physical distancing, such as reducing in-person meetings and other gatherings, maintaining an up-to-date list of employees at the workplace, and holding on-site meetings in open spaces or outside
- Providing adequate hand-washing facilities on site for all workers and ensuring their location is visible and easily accessed
- Provide and maintain adequate washroom facilities as required by Regulation 4.85. WorkSafeBC has guidance around the minimum number of required washrooms, washroom facilities where no plumbing is available, and maintenance of washroom facilities
- Regularly cleaning all common areas and surfaces, including washrooms, shared offices, common tables, desks, light switches and door handles
Employers must communicate the policies and protocols that are in place to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission through training, signage, and site orientation as appropriate.
Work camps provide an environment that can foster the transmission of infections, so it is important to implement effective infection prevention and control measures that can reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Employers must ensure that these measures are in place and trained and communicated to everyone at the camp.
The BC Centre for Disease Control has issued Interim Communicable Disease Control Guidelines for Industrial Camps, which provides information on prevention measures and how to manage the risk of COVID-19 exposure in an industrial camp.
Resolving concerns about unsafe work
Workers have the right to refuse work if they believe it presents an undue hazard.
An undue hazard is an “unwarranted, inappropriate, excessive, or disproportionate” risk, above and beyond the potential exposure a general member of the public would face through regular, day-to-day activity.
In these circumstances, the worker must follow steps within their workplace to resolve the issue. The worker can begin by reporting the undue hazard to their employer for investigation and the employer then needs to consider the refusal on a case-by-case basis, depending on the situation.
If the matter is not resolved, the worker and the supervisor or employer must contact WorkSafeBC. A prevention officer will then investigate and take steps to find a workable solution.
For more information, see Occupational Health and Safety Guideline G3.12.
For more information
The BC Construction Safety Alliance is the health and safety association established for B.C.’s construction industry. They have developed information and a number of resources to help employers manage the risk of COVID-19 exposure. This information includes:
- Resources and signage
- BCCSA message to members
- Information and useful links
- Frequently asked questions
- Mental health resources
The BC Construction Association has also developed information and guidance for the construction industry, including best practices for maintaining distance between workers for various job tasks and how to develop workplace policies around workers who are or may be ill.
In addition, the Provincial Health Officer has provided specific guidance to construction sites operating during COVID-19.
If you have a question or concern
Workers and employers with questions or concerns about workplace exposure to COVID-19 can call WorkSafeBC’s Prevention Information Line at 604.276.3100 in the Lower Mainland (toll-free within B.C. at 1.888.621.SAFE). You’ll be able to speak to a prevention officer to get answers to your questions, and if required, a prevention officer will be assigned to assess the health and safety risk at your workplace.
Note: The information on this page is based on current recommendations and may change. Content from health and safety associations and other parties is also subject to change and WorkSafeBC has not reviewed this material for the purpose of ensuring it is aligned with our guidance. For the latest guidance, visit the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control for health information and see the latest news from the government of British Columbia.