Construction at Five Corners in February, 2020. Algra Bros. announced on March 22 that construction is shut down as of March 23 at the downtown Chilliwack site, and the company is urging its colleagues in the industry to do the same. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Construction company shuts down all job sites, says new B.C. guidelines are ‘too little, too late’

‘The time has come for us to lay down our tools and stay at home,’ according to Algra Bros

While the COVID-19 guidelines and precautions issued Sunday for the B.C. construction industry are “good advice,” Algra Brothers are calling them “too little and too late.”

Algra Bros. Developments decided to shut down their construction site completely in downtown Chilliwack, in spite of the provincial government saying the industry could continue to operate.

“As of Monday, March 23, Algra Bros. will be discontinuing work on all of our job sites,” Algra Bros. spokesman Dave Algra said in a release.

READ MORE: DT redevelopment expected to kickstart things

Algra Brothers, comprising Peter, Dave, and Phil Algra, are imploring their colleagues in the construction community to do the same and shut down.

On Monday afternoon, only the contractors working on the intersection upgrade were in evidence around the Five Corners site.

“The sooner we all make this sacrifice, the sooner we will be able to pick up our tools and get back to work,” Algra said. “In spite of the uncertainty and impacts that COVID-19 will have on all of us, Algra Bros is confident that Canadians will do the right thing for the greater good of the communities we all love and enjoy.”

The construction company announced plans to move its headquarters to Chilliwack from Abbotsford last year, and continue to develop commercial and residential projects, like the one downtown.

READ MORE: B.C. lays out guidelines for construction industry

The problem is that it’s virtually impossible in construction to ensure a “safe working environment” for the workers.

Many of Algra workers are 45+ meaning they risk hospitalization and possible death in some cases if infected.

Also if they were to remain open, that would force other businesses, whose options for distancing may be problematic, to stay open as well.

“We in the construction industry have been fortunate to have been allowed to continue operating during the COVID-19 crisis, but the time has come for us to lay down our tools and stay at home.

“There is no doubt that shutting down, even for a short term, will present financial difficulties. But if we all do not take the difficult and necessary measures to stem the spread of the virus now, the financial problems we face today will pale to the hardships and losses we will incur in the coming months.”

Algra put it in context historically.

“We have not been faced with such a threat since the onset of World War II. Canadians were asked to make many personal sacrifices to assist in the war effort. We rose to the occasion, made the sacrifices, many with their lives, and we overcame the threat together.

“Unlike 1939, there is no ocean to protect us from imminent danger,” Algra noted.

“Danger is here. Today, we are being asked to make sacrifices to defeat a different kind of threat. Unlike our grandparents, we are not being asked to put on a uniform and shoulder a weapon. We are being asked to stay at home with our families; a small sacrifice compared with what they were asked to do.

The B.C. government and Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, said in a release Sunday it will take unprecedented measures to slow the transmission of COVID-19.

Henry issued an order under the Public Health Act prohibiting the gathering of people in excess of 50 people at a place of which a person is the owner, occupier or operator, or for which they are otherwise responsible.

But construction officials asked what that could mean for them given the job-site challenges.

Where plumbed facilities are impracticable, employers must provide access to portable washroom and hand-washing facilities.

“Those facilities must be maintained in good working order and must be provided with the supplies necessary for their use,” according to the guidelines.

Employers should reassess their work environment every day and keep updated by checking details on the provincial website: www.gov.bc.ca/COVID19

While Henry’s order prohibiting gatherings of 50 or more, does not apply to construction sites as a whole, the public health officer is directing employers to take all necessary precautions to minimize the risks of COVID-19 transmission and illness to themselves and their employees.

Precautions include:

* No more than 50 people in the same space in any circumstances.

* Where possible, employees should maintain a distance of two metres apart from each other.

* Signage limiting elevator capacity to four people at a time.

* Reduce in-person meetings and other gatherings and hold site meetings in open spaces or outside.

* Increase the number of hand-washing stations and post signage that identifies their location.

* Maintain a list of employees that are currently working on sites and update this list daily.

* All common areas and surfaces should be cleaned at the end of each day. Examples include washrooms, shared offices, common tables, desks, light switches and door handles.

* Anyone with COVID-19-like symptoms, such as sore throat, fever, sneezing or coughing, must self-isolate at home for 14 days.

For more on the response visit: www.gov.bc.ca/COVID19

READ MORE: Algra Bros shortlisted for industry awards


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
jfeinberg@theprogress.com


@CHWKjourno
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