Community sounds alarm on construction workers’ inter-provincial travel

Trucks bearing a 519 area code parked in front of the OPP station currently under construction on Boosneck Road has some citizens voicing concerns about travelling construction workers.

LITTLE CURRENT – Construction on the new Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) detachment will continue amid COVID-19 concerns, Infrastructure Ontario (IO) reports.

This newspaper has been contacted by several concerned community members who noted that the construction workers, employed by contractor Bird, were renting rooms in Little Current throughout the week, but returning to their (presumably) southern Ontario homes on the weekend. (The trucks driven by these construction workers have a 519 are code.) Construction has been deemed as an “essential service” by the province following last week’s state of emergency.

When contacted, IO responded to the Expositor’s queries with the following: “Work on IO’s projects continues. However, the health and wellbeing of every Ontarian must be our number one priority. Infrastructure Ontario is acting on the best advice of our chief medical officer of health and other leading public health officials across the province.”

“Employers must take the necessary steps to keep their employees, clients and customers safe and ensure that they are following the emergency order and the advice of Ontario’s chief medical officer of health,” Ian McConachie, media relations and issues manager with IO, said.

“There is a clear expectation for all of our contractors to ensure the health and safety of all of their workers,” Mr. McConachie continued. “Employers must take the necessary steps to keep their employees, clients and customers safe, and ensure that they are following the Emergency Order and the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.”

Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha explained that should members of the public have concerns on a specific worksite and feel it is not meeting the advice of the chief medical officer of health, they can call Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) and make a report. If PHSD deems that further investigation is warranted, they will send an investigator. It is important to know, however, that no one has reported on unsafe worksite practices at the Little Current site, but rather the travel of workers.

“The people (construction workers) have a right to go home,” said Burgess Hawkins, manager, health protection division of the PHSD. “There is no quarantine or self-isolation order within Canada (just for travellers returning from abroad). If a person lives in a place and works in another, they can travel freely.”

Ms. Hawkins did remind the public that things become different if they have symptoms of COVID-19—fever, cough, difficulty breathing. “If you have symptoms, self-isolate and contact your local COVID-19 assessment centre.”

Mr. Hawkins said the health unit could launch an investigation, but more likely this would fall to the Ministry of Labour. 

PHSD has not received any calls about the new OPP detachment site.