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FreshCo reno on schedule as virus looms over construction industry

On schedule - for now

The transformation of Vernon's old downtown Safeway continues on schedule – for now.

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all areas of the economy, and construction is among them.

Gary Roberts, superintendent with project contractor Align Construction, describes the situation as "fluid."

The site is undergoing a complete renovation into a FreshCo store, and has a completion target of the end of April.

"We're just gonna keep going," Roberts said Wednesday. "I don't know if the date will get pushed, but our shipments are still coming in."

He said supervisors meet daily to assess the situation, both in terms of the production schedule and the health of workers on site.

"Everyone is self-screening on a daily basis. Anyone who shows symptoms doesn't come in."

About 30 workers have been on site since the Safeway closed in November.

Meanwhile, the BC Building Trades Council is raising concern about the safety of construction workers across the province and their inability in many cases to stay six feet apart, as recommended by health authorities.

"Workers are pleading for help — this is urgent," executive director Andrew Mercier said in a statement. "I have been in direct contact with the top brass at WorkSafeBC about this. We need more hand-washing stations. We need better social distancing. Regulations on paper mean nothing if they are not being enforced on the ground."

The council said many workers have reported they do not have access to adequate washroom facilities, running water, soap or hand sanitizer. The FreshCo site has three porta-potties.

WorkSafeBC says it is launching an inspection drive to ensure construction sites are following direction from the provincial health officer and are complying with occupational health and safety requirements.

It also noted that workers have the right to refuse unsafe work if they believe it presents an undue hazard.

Jon Stovell, past chair of the Urban Development Institute, said a complete shutdown of the industry "is the inevitable next step." 



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