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Witness: New Queen’s residence construction site not COVID-19 safe

The construction site of a new residence building for Queen’s University on Albert Street. Photo by Kingstonist.

A neighbour says he has witnessed construction workers onsite of the new Queen’s University residence on Albert Street not complying with COVID-19 safety protocol.

A community member and nearby neighbour to the construction site says he has witnessed workers not wearing masks while performing tasks that require them to be less than two metres apart. This behaviour has been observed on multiple occasions and reported to Queen’s University, the City of Kingston, Ministry of Labour (MOL) and Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health (KFL&A) over several months with no noticeable improvement, says the witness, who asked that his name be withheld from publication.

When recently confronted by the community member to wear masks, especially on the private property surrounding the Albert Street site, one worker donned a mask while several other workers shouted expletives at the community member and did not cooperate. The anonymous witness shared both documentation and photographs showing workers in apparent violation of COVID-19 protocols with Kingstonist for verification.

The community member maintains that Queen’s University and the contractor should be ensuring a COVID-19 safe workplace for the workers and the community itself.

This incident follows Monday’s closing of the Cataraqui Heights construction site due to a COVID-19 outbreak of 34 cases, seven of which are from outside of the KFL&A region. The testing has revealed that this outbreak is most likely to be the B.1.1.7 variant.

The construction company hired to develop the new Cataraqui Heights facility, Pomerleau, was said to have cooperated in following COVID-19 safety precautions, but has refused repeated requests for interviews. On Wednesday, Apr. 5, 2021, Kingstonist reported that KFL&A Public Health has begun prioritizing construction workers locally for the COVID-19 vaccine.

In Ontario, the universal use of masks or face coverings that cover the nose, mouth and chin is currently mandatory in all indoor public spaces, including workplaces that are not open to the public. Outdoor workplaces do not require masks, however, workers are still required to wear masks whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained.

More information on provincial construction site safety during COVID-19.

The Queen’s University Albert Street residence building construction site from the other side in May 2021. Photo by Kingstonist.

“For the safety of the workers and their families, the neighbours and their families, and the whole of our community, this non-compliance with [COVID-19] rules on the Queen’s Albert Street project must be addressed before a similar outbreak occurs,” said the community member.

“Queen’s should walk the walk and lead by example during these challenging times.”

The new Queen’s residence is currently being built on Albert Street in place of five university-owned houses, with two of the houses being integrated into the new building. The Albert Street residence is intended to support slight undergraduate enrollment growth in 2022.

“Queen’s and its contractors take the safety of workers and the community extremely seriously,” said Julie Brown, media relations specialist at Queen’s University. “Contractors working on our property follow specific Health and Safety plans meeting the provincial COVID-19 guidelines, and Queen’s and its contractors have established protocols and expected standards of behaviour when interacting with the public. The Ontario Ministry of Labour has specifically visited the Albert Street Residence site three times, and has indicated the site is in compliance with COVID-19 protocols.”

“If the community has any concerns with any of our construction sites, we encourage them to contact the university and the appropriate authorities with details of their concerns so that these can be investigated.”

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