The Canadian construction industry has no solid mass plan for mandatory vaccines at this point. Still, there has been discussion over whether the industry can make the inoculations against COVID-19 mandatory for anyone who wishes to continue working.
A second outbreak of the COVID-19 virus occurred over the summer, setting the industry and the entire country back on its heels. Now, with vaccines becoming more readily available, the question is whether to require them for those working in tight work crews on construction sites.
- Since March 2020, the industry has gone through many iterations when COVID-19 first hit North America, starting with contractors struggling with whether to shut down work sites. Later in the month, Ontario outlined construction activities considered essential and the Canadian Construction Association formalized its pandemic protocols for job sites.
- By April 2020, the Ontario Ministry of Labor had identified three of five construction sites shut down due to the virus, saying those sites violated health and safety rules.
- Last May, Ontario announced new project lists that were allowed to continue work, including schools and site preparation, excavation and institutional, industrial, and residential and commercial development.
- By July 2020, a second wave of the virus hit Canada. Later in the month, Ontario announced a $4 billion funding allocation to cover the costs incurred due to the pandemic, with half slated for public transit projects.
The Ontario government earmarked $37 million in September to help thousands of people upgrade their skills and retrain for new careers. Then in October, it announced $10 billion in new infrastructure initiatives as part of the Canada Infrastructure Bank’s Growth Plan.
Are Vaccines Mandated for Construction Employees?
The province then announced a lockdown in December and laid out plans for COVID-19 testing.
Since then, the discussion has shifted to the vaccine. The government timeline calls for everyone who wishes to receive the vaccine to get it by September. But what happens if an employee chooses not to get vaccinated? What steps can employers take if a crew member refuses to disclose whether they have been vaccinated? Can the construction sites be limited to only workers who received the vaccine?
Because there are numerous employers for each construction site, the industry faces unique challenges. If various employers adopt different vaccine policies, whose policy takes precedent?
Due to the nature of construction work, owners, contractors, and subcontractors have a great incentive to get employees vaccinated to sidestep a considerable health risk. That risk can impact a company’s performance in both timeliness and organization. But many employers are struggling with the question of whether mandatory vaccinations will be a defensible policy. While some inoculations are already required in Canada for certain high-risk workers, no government entity has announced mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for any group.
Are Covid-19 Vaccines for Canadian Construction Industry Effective?
What we do know is that the coronavirus vaccine is very effective at preventing severe outbreaks and COVID-19 carries a much higher risk of death than the flu. It is likely employers working in high-risk areas will have more leeway in implementing mandatory vaccine policies.