Campus construction back at work with changes

Starting May 19, Phase 1 of the Ontario government’s reopening plan lifts construction restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic and allows the resumption in all sectors.

A busy season for campus construction, renovation, and maintenance resumes this week after a six-week shutdown to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic – although it will not be business as usual, Facilities Management officials announced.

“We are in the midst of bringing campus projects back online. However, things will be a little different,” said Mike McLean, Facilities Management’s Director of Facilities Planning & Design.

Starting May 19, Phase 1 of the Ontario government’s reopening plan lifts construction restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic and allows the resumption in all sectors.

Western has nearly 300 projects on its schedule, including the Biomedical Research Facility, Thames Hall renovation, Robarts Research Institute imaging suite, and Spencer Engineering Building lab renovations.

The government’s reopening plan calls for numerous measures to protect workers and the campus community, including those pertaining to worker proximity and site sanitation.

To keep workers separated, new practices will include staggering start times and breaks, controlling site movement, limiting gatherings, and having site meetings outside. There will be limited interaction between workers and other service providers and outside vendors, such as coffee and lunch trucks.

The distancing requirements may also impact the public, depending on the project. Typically, larger projects will be isolated by construction fence, however, smaller renovations may not have the space needed to create a physical barrier.

“In some cases, job sites are running adjacent to public areas,” McLean said. “We want the campus community to rest assured that we are being diligent about everyone’s safety.”

While maintaining a clean worksite has always been important, McLean said the current pandemic has further sharpened that focus. Liquid sanitizers are readily available throughout each job site, along with soap and water. Contractors will also be responsible for sanitizing high-touched surfaces, providing enough hand tools to avoid sharing, and posting signs to remind workers of proper site hygiene.

“The heightened expectations on sanitizing and distancing means a safer job site for all,” McLean said. “The lessons we learn through this may influence our site standards moving forward.”