Working from home in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic became the norm for many Canadians. But for others, it was the height of construction season. So, unable to work from home, they braved extended stays at remote work camps.
Keeping those camp-based workers safe required careful thought and planning, strong but flexible processes, and a healthy dose of compassion.
In this week’s blog post, we look at measures to keep workers safe and healthy at construction camps across the country.
Companies like Outland, a division of Dexterra, provide camp facilities and services for workers in pipeline, mining, forestry and other major industries. Services include catering, housekeeping and maintenance, and ensuring a positive guest experience through access to recreation facilities and activities.
Safety is always a primary concern at work camps. So, complying with COVID-19 public health restrictions strengthens protections that are already robust. And that’s helped prevent outbreaks at work camps, which could have serious consequences.
Among the extra measures put in place are increased dining times to avoid long service lines, expanded kitchen facilities, and additional recreation space.
“It’s a balance. We want to ensure the safety of guests and our own employees and, at the same time, we must do our best to avoid degrading the guest experience,” says Peter Cameron, Outland’s director of business development. “That means adding resources to maintain our high service standard and comply with public health requirements.”
The company also had to adapt procedures to provide comfortable isolation accommodations in camps. “If workers have even mild symptoms, they must isolate until they’re tested for COVID,” notes Cameron. “We manage their isolation in a thoughtful manner. So, an attendant brings them their meals and checks on them frequently. That way they’re not completely by themselves.”
Construction camp service companies have many similarities in how they address quality and safety. “Safety information is not treated as proprietary,” says Cameron. “A perfect example is our safety database, which provides collective knowledge that we can all use to improve. And we’re doing our best to bring learnings from other industries’ best practices to our clients, wherever we can.”
Cameron explains the company recently passed a spot-audit by one of their major clients. The client checked for COVID compliance and gathered best practices from work camps along the pipeline right-of-way.
With diverse worker populations and communities, Outland also had to be flexible with some schedules. “We typically have a rigid schedule. But in these pandemic times, we need a human approach,” says Cameron.
Some workers wanted to continue working instead of isolating for 14 days in the community when they return home. So, we’re allowing for longer shifts and giving longer periods of time off so workers could be with their families.”
“So much of the Canadian population experienced enhanced home-life balance during the pandemic,” says Cameron. “We’ve tried to adjust to manage that for service workers at camps, but the reality is that with remote locations and the number of tenants gathering from outside, we also have to take every safety precaution.”
As a part of the pipeline supply chain, Outland is a member of the CEPA Foundation. About Pipelines thanks Peter Cameron for sharing his company’s experience keeping workers safe during the pandemic.
Read some of our other blogs on how the industry has kept workers safe during the pandemic: