Op CALUMET: COVID-19 seen through the eyes of the Force Engineering Office’s Project Engineer

June 15, 2021 -  Defence Stories

By Captain Savannah LeBlanc, Construction Engineering Officer, Canadian Armed Forces

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The Force Engineering Office (FEO) experienced first-hand the need to implement COVID-19 mitigation measures to ensure that daily maintenance tasks and construction projects were kept on track.

Globally COVID-19 has impacted daily operations in all fields of work. Innovation and adaptability have been key to overcoming obstacles generated by the pandemic. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) deployed on Op CALUMET, in collaboration with the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), have witnessed and embraced the importance of navigating this new work environment.

The Force Engineering Office (FEO) experienced first-hand the need to implement COVID-19 mitigation measures to ensure that daily maintenance tasks and construction projects were kept on track. These mitigations became key to preserving the health and safety of all personnel. Examples of new working conditions that were set to permit work to continue are described below.

Firstly, it was deemed essential to allow only one host nation contractor on a given site at a time. This decision was based on reducing exposure to others and guaranteeing access to basic amenities within facilities. 

In addition, an “expectation” brief is now given to all contractors prior to commencing work with the MFO. This provides an opportunity to explain COVID-19 protocols and answer questions. When awarded an MFO contract, the relevant company receives a hard copy of the brief, enabling its employees’ full awareness of COVID-19 regulations and the responsibilities towards respecting them.

Other protocols currently in place are the wearing of proper PPE and the practice of social distancing. Due to the nature of construction work, following these rules can be challenging; however, the MFO Technical Representative onsite has the responsibility of enforcing regulations. These are essential to the protection of the Force and the continuity of construction projects.

Since July 2020, CAF personnel within the FEO have overseen work on projects such as the MFO remote site expansion, the remediation of South Camp beach (“Herb’s Beach”), the construction of an overhead protection for the Force Military Police Unit, and the building of an outdoor gym. None of the work accomplished during this period would have been possible without proactive COVID-19 mitigation measures put in place by the Force. This is a testimony to the feasibility of conducting construction projects in a COVID-19 environment, and all lessons learned during this unique deployment will be beneficial for years to come. 

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