MUN science building handed stop-work order over COVID-19 compliance concerns

Service NL says a stop-work order has been issued to Marco Services Limited, the contractor building Memorial University's new core science building.

Occupational Health and Safety officers visited the site Monday over concerns of the number of workers in one place.

"The provincial government takes the health and safety of employees very seriously and has been following all protocols established during the rapidly evolving situation regarding COVID-19," said a Service NL spokesperson Wednesday.

Officers were looking to see if there was compliance with social distancing — a two-arm's-lengths distance — and limiting physical contact with people.

As a result of that evaluation, a stop-work order has been issued until the employer provides a site response plan.

Terry Roberts/CBC

In an email to CBC, Marco CEO Christopher Hickman said he expects the order to be lifted today.

"We take the safety of our workers and community very seriously and are following the mandated provisions of the government-issued guidelines regarding public gatherings and social distancing," Hickman wrote.

"We have also introduced stringent cleaning and safety measures to all of our sites across the country."

Construction deemed essential

Multiple workers have contacted CBC News with concerns for their own health and safety, pointing out that new government rules dictate fewer than 10 people can gather at once.

They feel construction of the science building should not be deemed essential work, despite construction being listed as an essential service by the provincial government.

Construction falls under repair services with electrical, plumbing, appliances and heating.

However, workers said there should be clarity over which types of construction could continue.

Hickman said he can't comment on whether a project should be essential, as it's not up to him to decide.

"What I can tell you is that we are compliant with the recently mandated provisions on this site and all other sites and are working with various government agencies and our respective owners to ensure that public safety is protected while at the same time moving forward with the completion of our projects," Hickman said.

Meanwhile, Memorial University spokesperson David Sorensen told CBC News on Tuesday work is continuing at the animal resource centre and renovations to a university property at 208 Elizabeth Ave.

Sorensen said workers are following mandated social distancing provisions as well as other health and safety regulations.

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