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CORONAVIRUS: Public health information

A new coronavirus is the cause of an outbreak of respiratory infections, now known as COVID-19. The number of cases worldwide is changing quickly. B.C. has confirmed cases of coronavirus; however the risk to Canadians continues to be low.  The risk to construction workers is also low, due to general good health of the workforce, working conditions and safety equipment such as work gloves. However, all British Columbians should be aware of the virus and how to prevent its spread.

Recommendations for Employers:

  1. Keep washing your hands!
  2. For larger companies, form a COVID-19 response group to keep current on the issue, to ensure preventative measures are being taken, and to address personal or business impacts.
  3. For worksites and lunch rooms, ensure access to handwash and sanitizer stations
  4. Encourage workers, especially in lunch rooms, to wash their hands throughly and not share food, plates, utensils, etc.
  5. For offices and other shared workspaces, step up cleaning routines
  6. Keep your staff up-to-date on COVID-19 and what your company is doing
  7. Reduce face-to-face meetings and business travel where possible
  8. Review (and if so desired, revamp to fit your company’s circumstances and distribute to employees) this memo on guidance for employers
  9. Review this excellent list of Frequently Asked Questions – which include suggestions on how to handle employees returning from travel or needing to self-quarantine.
  10. Keep an eye on the BC Centre for Disease Control website for updates: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/coronavirus-(novel)

WorkSafeBC has a page that is helpful to employers and employees HERE.

Homebound? Try one of our online courses

Looking for a way to stay busy while homebound? ICBA Training has opened its massive catalogue of online courses to all British Columbians. Construction, business, office: there’s hundreds of courses for you to improve your career options. Visit ICBA.ca/online.

What is Coronavirus COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found mostly in animals. In humans, they can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). The new coronavirus has been named COVID-19.

While many of the characteristics of COVID-19 are still unknown, mild to severe illness has been reported for confirmed cases.

Anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, should contact their primary care provider, local public health office, or call 8-1-1.

What are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of COVID-19, are similar to other respiratory illnesses, including the flu and common cold. They include cough, sneezing, fever, sore throat and difficulty breathing.

If you have traveled to the affected area of Hubei Province, China, and develop these symptoms, avoid contact with others and call ahead to a health-care professional. Do the same if you develop symptoms and have been in contact with a confirmed case or a traveller returning from the affected area with these symptoms.
Tell your health-care professional:
  • your symptoms;
  • where you have been travelling or living;
  • if you had direct contact with animals (for example, if you visited a live animal market); and
  • if you had close contact with a sick person, especially if they had a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
Call ahead to the health-care facility you are planning to visit so they can be prepared to take precautions. In an emergency, describe your symptoms, travel history and any sick contacts when you first arrive at the facility so that appropriate precautions can be taken.
Until more is understood about the virus, older people and people with a weakened immune system or underlying medical condition are considered at higher risk of severe disease.

How is it spread?

Coronavirus is transmitted via larger liquid droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. The virus can enter through these droplets through the eyes, nose or throat if you are in close contact. The virus is not known to be airborne (e.g. transmitted through the particles floating in the air) and it is not something that comes in through the skin.
It can be spread by touch if a person has used their hands to cover their mouth or nose when they cough. That’s why we recommend you cough or sneeze into your arm and wash your hands regularly.

How can I avoid it?

You can stay healthy and prevent the spread of infections by:
  • washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
  • avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands;
  • avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
  • coughing or sneezing into your sleeve and not your hands; and
  • staying home if you are sick to avoid spreading illness to others.

Where can I get more information?

TRAINING THURSDAY (EMERGENCY EDITION) We offer online courses!

ICBA appreciates the seriousness of the threat of COVID-19. We have decided to postpone all in-person ICBA Training classes effective immediately.
 
But that doesn’t mean you can’t still do training!
Did you know that ICBA offers more than one hundred online courses that you can take on your own time and at your own pace? Plus, many of them offer Gold Seal Credits and BC Housing CPD Points!
Whether you’re looking for safety courses such as Confined Spaces Safety Awareness or Pipeline Construction Safety Training, or supervisory skills courses such as First Level Supervisor Training, we’re here to help. Going for your Gold Seal Certification? Our online Construction Industry Ethics course is mandatory.
We continue to add online courses to our lineup, including workshops such as Leadership in Safety, Accident/Incident Investigation, Due Diligence for Supervisors, and more. There are even some free sessions in our online calendar!
You don’t have to be an ICBA member to take any of our courses. Our full online course list can be found at www.icba.ca/online

ICBA TRAINING NEWS: All In-Person Classes Postponed Due to COVID-19

ICBA Training has grown substantially in recent years, and we appreciate your trust and participation as you develop your skills within our industry.

As you know, the new coronavirus, known as COVID-19, has been declared a global pandemic and governments are taking increasingly aggressive actions to prevent or slow the rate of infection. B.C. has confirmed numerous cases of coronavirus so the need to be vigilant is paramount – the seriousness of the threat of COVID-19 should not be underestimated.

To that end, we have decided to postpone all in-person ICBA Training classes effective immediately. ICBA will review public health instructions and advisories in the weeks to come and determine a restart date when appropriate.

For those who have already paid their registration, ICBA will hold a spot for you in the next scheduled class (once public health officials give us the approval to resume). However, if you would prefer a refund, email ally@icba.ca and she will put that through instead.

In the meantime, to further your training, ICBA offers hundreds of online courses. See the most popular ones HERE (or click HERE for the full catalogue).

Thanks again – these challenges are unprecedented, but by working together, we can all succeed at defeating this virus.

PS: ICBA has set up a dedicated webpage at www.icba.ca/coronavirus where we will continue to post information relevant to construction.

TRAINING THURSDAY: Brand New Scaffolding Courses

 

We have some exciting new courses on our calendar with our partner Canada Scaffold!

We’re starting with the Scaffold & Access Industry Association accredited Frame Scaffold Competent Person course April 15 in Richmond. Frame scaffolding is one of the most common types of scaffolding seen on construction sites, and is typically manufactured from round tubing. You’ll learn how to identify types and components of Frame Scaffold, erect a multi-lift tower, and much more. Plus, you’ll earn 7 CPD Points from BC Housing.

We’re then holding a System Scaffold Competent Person course April 18. Canada Scaffold University’s SAIA approved Systems Scaffold course will provide demonstration and practice with the typical methods of constructing systems scaffolding, including:

  • Identifying types and components of System Scaffold
  • Identify standard usage of System Scaffold
  • How System Scaffolds are erected using Code of Safe Practice

And more. You’ll also receive 7 CPD Points from BC Housing for this session.

Our final new course is Swing Stage Awareness, scheduled for April 22 in Richmond with Canada Scaffold. This 1-day course is designed for anyone with little or no working knowledge of operating and working from a swing stage. It is also beneficial for experienced operators who would like a refresher. After completing this course, participants will know the basics required to safely use suspended work platforms.

This course also offers 7 CPD Points from BC Housing.

Visit www.icba.ca/courses for more information on each of these courses and to register.

OP-ED: Housing affordability requires national, provincial and local action

This op-ed, written by ICBA President Chris Gardner, first appeared on TheOrca.ca on March 10, 2020.

Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Case-in-point: government’s approach to a lack of housing affordability in the Lower Mainland.

The John Horgan NDP government continues to try and bring housing prices down by doing the thing they do the most – raising taxes, hoping to suppress demand. But this has done little to make housing affordable in major markets in B.C. With demand for housing far outstripping the number of units available on the market, it does not take an Einstein-level genius to understand that we cannot, and will not, tax our way to affordable housing.

The problem of affordability in Metro Vancouver is acute. RBC recently calculated that the typical share of income needed to cover home ownership costs is 77.3% in Vancouver, twice as much as Calgary’s 38.3% and way above the national average of 50.7%.

The answer is supply – something a new Canada/BC Expert Panel on Housing Supply and Affordability is looking to tackle. The panel will provide recommendations on “supply side” measures to address chronic housing affordability issues. And their answers are desperately needed: the Horgan government predicted in its recent budget that housing starts will drop by a third over the next two years. That’s simply not enough supply and the upward pressure on prices will make a bad situation worse.

The biggest hurdle the panel should address is the shortsightedness of municipal councils. Local politicians are far too reluctant to tackle NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) residents who don’t want to see redevelopment and higher densities.

Metro Vancouver’s land constraints make the need to densify imperative – oceans and rivers, mountains, borders, the Agricultural Land Reserve and Port requirements for tide-water lands severely limit development.

The era of single-family homes on large lots must give way in many locations to higher-density town- and row-home solutions, along with multi-story mixed-use buildings. With Metro Vancouver poised to welcome an estimated one million additional people by 2040, Rennie Group estimates that to accommodate all of these people, we will have to build as many new homes in the region as currently exist in Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and Coquitlam.

That’s a breathtaking number given the refusal of City Halls across the region to embrace density and remove the barriers to building new housing at reasonable prices for home buyers in the region.

Take North Vancouver District, for example. Under Mayor Mike Little, the District Council has been turning down virtually every development that comes before it. Their next test will be an Anthem Properties project, replacing 114 50-year-old, worn-out townhouses with an innovative mix of 341 new townhomes and condos that includes 25 rent-to-own units (participants can apply 24 months of rent to a down payment), 56 long-term rentals, 33 below-market rentals (Hollyburn Family Services is helping pick the recipients), and a Habitat for Humanity unit.

Despite an 87% positive public comment rate at the project’s open house, housing advocates in North Vancouver are on pins and needles: district council’s parochialism and record of NIMBYism and anti-density is well-known. This is precisely the kind of development we need more of in the Lower Mainland, but there is little confidence the district will do the right thing.

Municipalities should be leading the way in driving increased supply and densification, but have shown little capacity to make the bold visionary decisions to see us through the current housing mess. And it’s time for the provincial and federal governments to stop acting like disinterested bystanders.

We are at a point where Victoria should use the proverbial stick and usher in a series of benchmarks on new home construction that are tangible along with penalties for cities that do not meet new housing supply targets.

The federal government’s fiscal leverage can also be helpful – federal matching dollars for rapid transit infrastructure should be strictly conditional on higher density commitments from both municipalities and the province.

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it,” said Einstein. It’s time our elected officials at all levels opened their minds to new solutions – and make the tough (and necessary) decisions to increase housing supply. Failure to do so will condemn a generation of homebuyers to prices that will be out-of-reach throughout their lifetime.

HEALTH ALERT: Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Construction

THIS PAGE IS BEING UPDATED CONSTANTLY WITH NEW, RELEVANT INFORMATION – BOOKMARK IT

A new coronavirus is the cause of an outbreak of respiratory infections, now known as COVID-19. All British Columbians should be aware of the virus and how to prevent its spread. Unprecedented measures taken by government and business are causing this situation to change almost hourly. Here is information for ICBA members working in the construction sector (bookmark this page as we will be updating frequently).

Public Health and News Links

Information for Construction Employers

Legal Advice for Construction Employers

Government Aid For Employers

Both the federal and provincial governments are working on financial aid for employers – we are working the phones hard to share construction’s perspective. ICBA is a founding member of the COVID-19 Business Cabinet. Here is what we know so far:

  • Federal measures:
    • NEW 4/1 – Businesses will receive a payroll subsidy of 75% (The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy)
      • It is open to corporations, businesses, partnerships and non-profits – no matter how large or small
      • Your business must have seen a revenue reduction of 30% since last year due to COVID-19. This is determined by comparing revenues to same month last year, for March, April, or May (and you need to apply each month)
      • The benefit will cover up to 75% of workers’ salaries on the first $58,700 earned annually
      • The maximum benefit will be $847 per week, per worker
      • The subsidy will be backdated to March 15
      • Employers must attest that they are doing everything they can to pay other 25%, although it’s unclear how this will be determined
      • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau say “severe sanctions” will be taken against any business abusing this program.
      • It will take six weeks for this money to make it out to companies; there are business credit programs available
      • Applications will go through a Canada Revenue Agency portal, which will be up and running “within 3-6 weeks.” WATCH FOR DETAILS
    • GST payments can be deferred to June
    • Banks instructed to offer lines of credit of up to $40,000 to business, guaranteed by the federal government. Interest-free for first year, with up to $10,000 forgivable. WATCH FOR DETAILS
    • Economic Development Canada will guarantee up to 80% of operating cash flow loans negotiated with banks.
    • The Business Development Bank of Canada has upped its financing for entrepreneurs and employers during this crisis
    • Individuals’ AND businesses’ income tax filing deadline has been extended to June 1. Payments not due until September. Audits suspended until mid-April.
    • There are a series of existing programs that may be helpful
    • Guidance for workers on EI vs. the Emergency Response Benefit; Emergency Benefit applications HERE
  • Provincial (B.C.) measures:
    • Deferred payment programs for ICBC and BC Hydro. Hydro also reducing rate by 1%.
    • Employer Health Tax, PST, municipal and regional district tax, motor fuel tax, and carbon tax (all for businesses) filings and payments deferred until Sept. 30, 2020
    • 50% school tax cut for business and light- and major-industry property classes
  • Great list of help programs for businesses and individuals

ICBA’s Commitment to Our Members

  1. We are committed to helping you facilitate solutions in your company – we are already at work on the federal and provincial governments to do right by construction companies and the families who rely on them
  2. Our ICBA services – including ICBA Benefits and the Construction Industry’s Benefit Plan – continue and are as seamless as possible during this time

ICBA Benefits and the Construction Industry’s Benefit Plan/Hour Bank

Cancellations

If You Are Concerned You Have The Virus:

  • Use this self-assessment tool: https://covid19.thrive.health/
  • Call the COVID-19 hotline: 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319) for non-medical advice
  • Call 811 for medical advice

If You Have Been Out-of-Country in the Past Few Weeks:

  • Self-quarantine for 14 days, as ordered by the BC Ministry of Health

Homebound? Try one of ICBA’s Online Courses

  • Kudos to our ICBA member companies who are using the ICBA online training options to keep their workers trained during shutdowns. Check out ICBA.ca/online or talk to us at training@icba.ca to see how we can help you with bulk course registrations for your workers (these are now open to all British Columbians). We’re in this together!

Camp vs. Hotel: The Choice is Yours

ICBA member and supporter LodgeLink helps workforce travellers find accommodation that best meets their needs. Check them out at www.lodgelink.com.

Crews often work long hours with odd schedules in physically demanding and challenging conditions. Finding quality accommodations for your work crews is not an easy task, yet it’s important for employee morale and engagement, making it a key factor for recruiting and retaining that top talent. Not to mention the impact on worker health, safety, and productivity.

While crews might not always have a choice as to where they work, now there are more options for whereto stay while they work. Check out some highlights of modern life and amenities at hotels and worker camps and gain insight into your crew’s experiences.

Things to consider: Camps

  • Comfort – Just because crews are away from home doesn’t mean they don’t value a good meal or a place to relax so that they can refuel after a demanding shift. Camps with a selection of food options, including after-hours meal service and bagged lunches are always popular with crews which work in night and day shifts.
  • Connectivity – Frequently, these workers are away from family and friends, so connectivity is important to ensure they don’t feel isolated. Internet access and wi-fi help ensure your teams can keep in touch and stay up-to-speed with home life.
  • Community – Camps are often located in more remote locations, so spaces and activities that help bring crew members together with friends help boost morale. Whether it’s a group workout in the lodge gym or a game of pool or foosball in the lounge, recreational spaces allow crews a chance to build relationships and have fun while away from home.

Things to consider: Hotels

  • Location – Hotels are often closer than camps to urban areas, giving workers more options for food and activities, especially in their free time. Properties that are close to landmarks, restaurants, or other recreational activities give your team the chance to enjoy the local area in their free time.
  • Amenities – Crews with extended stays may prefer additional amenities more commonly found in hotels. Conveniences like kitchenettes provide an opportunity for a home-cooked meal, and bag storage for early check-ins and late check-outs give your team more flexibility.

Whether your team prefers their favourite tried and true hotel chain or a full-service work camp, LodgeLink has you covered. LodgeLink is a one-stop-shop for workforce travel solutions, combining technology with knowledgeable customer service. They provide crew accommodation booking and management with both hotels and lodges, air travel, and car rentals for customers that require more comprehensive crew travel management services.

OP-ED: Time for Canadian Energy Backers to Quit Being So Bloody Polite

The following op-ed, by ICBA VP-Communications Jordan Bateman, first ran in The Orca on March 6, 2020.

American groups funding eco-activists opposed to Canadian oil and gas got their money’s worth out of “My Sea to Sky” late last year. That’s my takeaway from an analysis by Greg Gutowski of regsync.ca.

Gutowski looked at the 2019 public comment period for the environmental assessment of Woodfibre LNG’s request for a “floatel” – a floating hotel that would house up to 600 workers during construction of the LNG operation. Woodfibre proposed the floatel after Squamish residents and business owners raised concerns that workers could tie up Squamish’s limited hotel room supply during key tourism periods.

BC’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) asked for public comment from November 12 to December 15, 2019.

A Facebook group called My Sea to Sky held a protest the day the consultation launched, and local media reported 30 protestors outside Squamish Municipal Hall.

But that protest was more show than go: in the first 18 days of consultation, only one negative comment was sent to the EAO, while 105 submissions supported the floatel.

Throughout the consultation process, support letters came in steadily and were far ahead of the opposition.

With just four days left, My Sea to Sky went to work online. They ran social media posts, spent money advertising them, and used some outrageous fear tactics. One ad said, “Imagine what Squamish will be like if 600 cashed-up, mostly male workers that don’t have a connection to our community come into town?” The ads linked to a 1,920-word form letter they wanted people to sign and send in.

Before that late, four-day ad campaign, just 14 opposing comments had been sent to the EAO. By the end, there were 509 opposing comments.

In a way, you have to tip your hat to My Sea to Sky, which has collected money from Patagonia, the Environmental Dispute Relief Fund (West Coast Environmental Law), the San Francisco-based Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Tides Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. They manufactured the appearance of deep public concern with just moments to spare.

But the bigger picture is worrisome: should an American-funded “advocacy” group be allowed to skew our public input consultations like this? Gutkowski noted that Woodfibre has actually consulted with My Sea to Sky more 500 times – more than any other impacted group, Indigenous community, regulator or government agency. That’s an incredible amount of time and effort spent by Woodfibre to try and ease the concerns of a group created and funded to oppose them. And still My Sea to Sky resorts to fear mongering to try and get their way.

Woodfibre LNG didn’t try and torque public consultation, and support for their proposal came in organically and steadily (The floatel proposal, by the way, is still under review by the EAO.)

Another interesting piece of analysis from Gutkowski were two word clouds, made up from submissions in favour and opposed. Those in favour used generally on-topic words like “housing,” “accommodation,” “construction,” “floating,” and “communities.”

Those opposed?  They preferred “fracking,” “fossil,” “emissions,” and “impacts” – real and imagined concerns that are more broadly connected to the project, and not the floatel under review.

The moral of the story? Canada’s oil and gas supporters are going to need to quit being polite and instead play by the same rules as their US-funded opponents. And the silent majority in favour of economic growth in this country need to speak up.

Read Gutkowski’s full report HERE.