John Fisher parent records safety gap at Erskine construction site

The city issued a warning to the developer of the 35-storey project at 18–30 Erskine Avenue this month after a parent posted a video on YouTube showing an open gate at the construction site.

Stavros Rougas was walking by the construction site Nov. 7 when he noticed the gate was open and no one around to ensure students, who were leaving school after the bell, could not get inside. An additional security fence was in place inside, but it wasn’t enough for Rougas.

“It’s just the optics of it,” Rougas said. “Sloppy work can lead to problems. It’s not nefarious, it’s just sloppy.”

Ward 25 councillor Jaye Robinson confirmed the city issued a warning to the developer  KG Group for the infraction.

“I was very disappointed because six months went into a construction mitigation plan,” she said in a mid-November phone call. “I put forward pages of motions to ensure the safety of the neighbourhood and the children attending John Fisher.”

KG Group has acknowledged the lapse, reiterating security is “critically important.”

Jackie Chan, KG vice president of property development, wrote a lengthy email to Streeter regarding a citizen illegally entering the property on Nov. 7 at around 3:30 p.m.

“Our construction superintendent was in the process of closing down the site at the time and was giving instruction to a contractor inside the gate,” Chan wrote. “Unfortunately, the intruder who captured the video footage did not realize that our site superintendent was in fact on site.”

He provided a still photo from closed-circuit television footage taken that afternoon.

“The image shows the intruder standing at the gate, and our site superintendent coming up the ladder from the excavation site,” he pointed out. “Without question, we had someone on site to ensure safety.”

KG GROUP shared a CCTV still of a citizen entering the property on Nov. 7 at 3:30 p.m., circled at right, while the site superintendent was nearby, circled in the centre of the picture.

He also noted the additional security fence the covered the length of the site a metre from the exterior gate.

As a result of the incident, a working group has been established, including the developer, the school, the neighbours and John Fisher parents.

“We will be watching closely. We’ve already issued them a warning,” Robinson said. “But we would definitely be looking at fines, penalties and stop-work orders if this continues.”

The issue can go as far as the provincial government, as Ministry of Labour spokesperson Janet Deline highlighted what residents can do when they see a risk to public safety.

“Although the regulatory focus is on workers in the workplace, there are provisions in the legislation to protect the public from construction work on a project that is taking place adjacent to public rights of way,” she wrote in an email.

The Construction Projects Regulation ensures that work on a project adjacent or near to an open space to which the public has access does not endanger the public.

“Gates in the fence may be opened to receive equipment and or delivery of materials but must be closed when the work is completed to comply with fencing requirement,” she said.

However, the Ministry of Labour cannot enforce the posting of safety officers at the front gates of construction sites, Robinson said and suggested further consultation should be done at the municipal level.

For Rougas, the onus remains on the city to levy fines and maintain a safe environment for the students attending John Fisher Public School.

“This is beyond John Fisher. You have so many people living close together,” he said. “If things don’t get dealt with, things blow up.”