OHS Canada Magazine

Quebec construction, manufacturing sectors threatened with more COVID-19 restrictions

Labour minister says he's received many reports of non-compliance


MONTREAL — Quebec’s labour minister on Friday threatened to impose more restrictions on the province’s construction and manufacturing sectors for allegedly flouting health orders.

Jean Boulet said in a statement he’s received many reports of non-compliance connected to the two sectors since the government imposed new restrictions Jan. 9.

He did not, however, provide details about the number of problematic companies or the nature of the violations.

The new measures — in effect until at least Feb. 8 — require the two industries to limit operations to essential activities and to reduce the number of workers in factories and on construction sites. Most other businesses across Quebec deemed non-essential have been closed since December.

Quebec manufacturing, construction sectors warn against new lockdowns

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Quebec’s new health orders also include a provincewide curfew from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m., in an attempt to reduce COVID-19 transmission and reduce the strain on the health system from rising hospitalizations.

On Friday, Quebec reported 1,918 new COVID-19 cases and 62 more deaths linked to the novel coronavirus, including nine that occurred in the prior 24 hours. Health officials said hospitalizations dropped by 27, to 1,496, and 231 people were in intensive care, a rise of one.

Health Minister Christian Dube said Friday on Twitter it was too early to say if the new restrictions are having an impact.

Adherence required, minister says

Boulet, meanwhile, said if construction and manufacturing companies don’t reduce operations and adhere to the other health orders, the government would further restrict their activities.

“If the problem persists, the Quebec government will take its responsibilities and will not hesitate to close construction sites or businesses as well as issue tickets to offenders,” he said.

The Canadian Press recently contacted three construction industry associations, who all said they hadn’t reduced operations since the new health order had been imposed. Industry representatives said all ongoing work is essential.

“Everything that is in progress is considered essential,” Guillaume Houle, spokesperson for the Association de la construction du Quebec, said.

Francois Bernier, vice-president of an association representing entrepreneurs in housing, said 20,000 projects are scheduled for delivery in the first half of 2021 and respecting those commitments, he added, is also essential.

A third association representing companies that construct major infrastructure said activity in the sector is typically low at this time of year. But, the spokesman said, construction on the light rail network in the Montreal area is going ahead.

Coping with COVID-19 on the construction site

8,938 deaths in Quebec

Quebec’s national institute of public health says 33 outbreaks tied to 134 infections were reported on construction sites between Dec. 27 and Jan. 2 — 4.5 per cent of all workplace outbreaks.

“There is nobody who can boast of being perfect in the management of the pandemic and the construction sector is no exception,” Houle said.

“On the other hand, we took charge, we have a guide with very strict sanitary measures to respect on construction sites and we reminded our members last week that these health measures must be applied as strictly as possible.”

Quebec has reported 238,745 infections and 8,938 deaths linked to the virus.

With files from Pierre Saint-Arnaud in Montreal