Global Covid mandates: How will construction workers be affected?

By Dan Colombini28 January 2022

Like many industries across the world, the global construction sector has been hit hard by the pandemic. With many sites facing large shortages of workers, the ongoing battle against the Omicron variant has seen this issue exacerbated as covid cases have risen.

As a result, many governments are taking measures to protect workers in their respective countries. We take a look at some of the latest steps being taken that could impact construction workers across the world…

US
The US Department of Labor has confirmed that it will withdraw its emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring Covid-19 vaccination or testing for workers at large employers, with staff of over 100 or more.

This has been weclomed by construction groups, with Stephen E. Sandherr, Associated General Contractors of America CEO saying that, “The Biden administration is right to abandon its misguided vaccine emergency rule and we encourage ... the same with a similar measure affecting federal contractors that we are also challenging in court.” 

The department has asked the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss judicial challenges to the emergency measures. And from today, the ETS are no longer be in effect.

However, it will continue to push for a permanent mandate for the measures.

The construction industry has seen siginifcant worker shortages since the outbreak of the pandemic. CREDIT: Reuters.

UK
Currently, the UK has only mandated vaccines for health and social care workers. Starting 1 April, it will be compulsory for them to get vaccinated against Covid-19. The government recently announced that people in wider industries are no longer asked to work from home.

There is also no longer a legal requirement to wear a face covering in the workplace or in public. However, people are still advised to wear one in crowded and indoor spaces where they may “come into contact with people they do not normally meet.”

Venues and events are no longer required by law to check visitors’ NHS Covid Pass. They can still choose to use the NHS Covid Pass on a voluntary basis.

Italy
Earlier this month, Italy made it compulsory for over-50s to be vaccinated.

The mandate is among the toughest vaccine policies in Europe. The government has also tightened its workplace vaccine rules and, from 15 February, people aged over 50 who are in jobs, either in the public or private sector, will have to present a health pass proving immunisation or recovery from Covid-19.

Austria
Austria will end its lockdown for unvaccinated residents next Monday – one day before a an all-encompassing mandate takes effect in the country, the country’s chancellor announced yesterday.

Austria has imposed some of the toughest mandates in Europe to protect its healthcare system. CREDIT: Reuters.

On February 1, a vaccine mandate for adults – the first of its kind in Europe – will take effect.

Officials have said the controversial action is necessary because vaccination rates remain too low.

Canada
The spread of the Omicron variant led to Canada’s Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos raising the possibility of government-mandated vaccination for the public to tackle the breakdown of regional health care systems.

Many provinces and territories have already embraced less stringent vaccine requirements, but others have taken a different path. As a result, Canadians are facing an uneven set of rules and restrictions.

Alberta, for example, has had a passport system in place since October last year. Businesses can opt out of the mandate, but will face extra capacity restrictions as a result. All residents of Ontario aged 12 and older have to show proof of vaccination to visit “non-essential businesses.”

Australia
Different States in the country have different rules. In New South Wales, From 15 December 2021 density limits on construction sites were lifted, and masks are no longer mandatory on site. 

A third vaccination shot is to be made mandatory for essential workers across the country, who will receive a booster to tackle the Omicron surge. In many states, construction workers are deemed as essential. 

In December last year, Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan was the first to announce workers in industries already covered by a vaccine mandate must receive a third dose of an approved Covid-19 vaccine within one month of becoming eligible.

And earlier this month, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia followed suit - all mandating the booster shot for essential workers.

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