The impact on construction of COVID-19 and our government’s understandable response to it will be significant. There will be project shutdowns, work stoppages, unpaid accounts, insolvencies and claims. On-site, where work is allowed to continue, the health and safety of workers must be safeguarded, the willingness of workers and sub-trades to attend site may vary, your exposure to claims from workers and employees will be heightened and access to sites may be limited. In addition, the actual wording of the mandatory closure of non-essential workplaces in Ontario (announced March 23rd, with particulars to come) will have to be assessed to determine what jobs can or must proceed.
Assessing your risk and developing a plan forward will require an assessment of your contracts as regards employment terms, health and safety, frustration, force majeure, claims, notice, schedule extensions, delay, suspension of work, termination of contract and dispute resolution, all in the context of common-law norms applied during and following a global pandemic. It will require you to address OHSA site requirements where work continues and to protect your rights under your contracts. Given the likelihood of insolvencies, it is also important that insurance and bond claims be preserved and commenced in a timely fashion. Contractual notice periods are not necessarily suspended.
On Thursday, March 26, 2020 at 1:00 pm, Rob Kennaley of Kennaley Construction Law and Keith Burkhardt of Sherrard Kuzz LLP will present a free, two hour webinar that will provide practical and focused information that addresses the issues identified above for owners and their consultants.
We can’t recommend strongly enough that you educate yourself on the practical, contractual and risk exposure implications of COVID-19.