PEI

COVID-19 means new construction projects should be postponed, says chief public health officer

While emergency repairs like plumbing and electrical work have been deemed as essential services by the province, the Construction Association of P.E.I. has been told that no new projects should be started for the time being. 

Emergency repairs deemed essential by the province allowed to continue

Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says if companies do choose to continue work at job sites, to make sure they are doing so safely. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

While emergency repairs like plumbing and electrical work have been deemed as essential services by the province, the Construction Association of P.E.I. has been told that no new projects should be started for the time being.

On Thursday, government listed construction as an essential service. But Friday, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison clarified, saying that only emergency repairs for services by electricians and plumbers are essential. 

"We should reconsider any new builds, to a later date."

Work that is currently underway can proceed, she said, as long as it's done following guidelines laid out by her office.

"There are a number of builds that are in progress," she said. "Leaving those structures in the current state they're in, might put them at risk of damage."

No starts

Sam Sanderson, general manager of the Construction Association of P.E.I., said he's been in constant contact with the public health office. 

"We very clearly received some information yesterday from the chief health officer's office indicating that they did not want to see any new construction started," he said.

Morrison says that plumbing and electrical repairs are essential services, and can continue to operate. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

With work already underway allowed to move forward, the association has taken a number of steps to keep its members safe. 

It has developed a poster to put up at work sites around the Island that tell people how to stay safe and advising them to stay home if they've travelled.

Sanderson said workers are able adhere to social distancing while on the job, especially if it's a large site. 

"It's looking like, you know, that's going to be a full-time job for one person," he said. "Just kind of directing staff and you know giving them their kind of designated work areas."

He said he's getting a lot of calls from people in the construction industry, seeking guidance on how, and if, they should move forward in times they've never had to navigate before. 

 "There's definitely a lot of concern within the industry," he said.  "We're taking calls here that you know, we don't normally get from a lot of different areas."

Extra education on safety

A number of those calls are coming from those who might not be familiar names for Sanderson. 

"A surprising amount of calls we're getting from non-members, and just looking for information," he said.

Sam Sanderson, general manager of the Construction Association of P.E.I., says the association is working on making sure its members stay safe if they continue to work on jobs. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

And for those who have to go into people's homes for their jobs, the association has given extra education on how to do so safely. 

Sanderson said, with guidance from the Chief Public Health Office, they have laid out what to do and not do when going into someone's home for emergency services.

While the lack of new projects might have an impact on construction here on the Island, Sanderson said it's time for everyone to be safe. 

"As an industry right now we need to come together we need to, again, make sure that we're doing everything we possibly can to protect our workers and their families."

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I. 

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