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The Alberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association has been standing up for members for more than 60 years

By Mark Halsall

 

As in other areas across Canada, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic had a major dampening effect on construction in Alberta. Many projects were delayed or forced to incur extra costs, leaving contractors to bear much of the financial burden. The road-building industry in Alberta was no exception.

That’s when the organization that represents the province’s roadbuilders went to bat for its members and proved its worth during tough times.

This past spring, the Province of Alberta accepted a proposal from the Alberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association (ARHCA) that a Fairness Advisory Panel be established that would enable contractors to work directly with the government in resolving COVID-19-related disruptions on transportation projects in the province.

“Specifically, the goal is to seek relief for unforeseen disruptions in both time and additional costs, directly related to health protocols imposed by governments to deal with the pandemic,” said Ron Glen, CEO of ARHCA.

“This is a major achievement. Contractors can now enjoy less anxiety in bidding projects knowing that there is recognition by government that these unprecedented times require new thinking.”

The Alberta government has appointed six members to the Fairness Advisory Panel: two ARHCA representatives, two Consulting Engineers of Alberta representatives and two provincial representatives.

Glen says if there was one silver lining to the pandemic, it’s that it has helped lift Alberta’s road construction industry out of the doldrums; and ARHCA also played a large role in that.

Glen says that prior to the pandemic, there had been cuts and a lot of uncertainty surrounding highway projects in the province, reflecting the general state of Alberta’s economy.

When COVID-19 hit, he says, ARHCA pushed its advocacy for roadbuilding and heavy construction hard, highlighting to the Alberta government the critical role the industry can play in the economy as a catalyst.

This certainly was a factor in the government’s decision to announce $410 million in stimulus spending for Alberta’s road network on April 9.

Glen said when that happened, “Our construction forecast did a bit of a 180. That allowed our members to keep working, and it has really helped the economy with the number of jobs it has created and continues to create,” adding that the initial stimulus spending announcement has been followed by numerous others from the province.

“The ARHCA really appreciates the government recognizing the importance that the roadbuilding industry has,” said Glen.

He says the organization will continue to push for increased spending by the Alberta government for highway projects in the province.

“Our association is really hoping to ensure that there is long-term sustainable funding. We want to ensure that these announcements don’t stop in 2021 because our road network is really important to our economy and that certainly doesn’t have an end date,” Glen said.

 

Long history

Founded in 1956, ARHCA has a long history of standing up for the roadbuilding industry. It’s grown to become one of the largest construction associations in Canada, with more than 860 member companies that are involved in the construction and rehabilitation of highways, municipal roads, bridges, sewers and water projects in Alberta.

The association membership consists of contractors as well as associate members (financial services, equipment dealers and others who provide supplies and services to industry) and consultant members (consulting engineering firms).

ARHCA is run by a 14-member board of directors and an executive committee comprised of the following members:

  • Joe Kabarchuk, chair of the board
  • Andrew Arnill, immediate past chair
  • Jonathan Hamilton, first vice chair
  • Ian McKinnon, second vice chair
  • Ron Glen, CEO
  • Due to constraints on the size of public gatherings, ARHCA’s annual convention and annual general meeting (AGM) held at the Fairmont Banff Springs in Banff, Alta., was replaced by a small summit on the future of industry in November. The AGM will move online in December. Numerous golf tournaments hosted by the association every year had to be cancelled this year, as well.

 

As is the case for many organizations these days, ARHCA is having to rethink how it connects with members and provides the networking and relationship-building opportunities that are a such an important part of belonging to a trade association.

One important perk for members has been the association’s partnering sessions with the City of Calgary and the City of Edmonton that enables them to network with municipal officials and industry experts.

Glen says ARHCA is looking into how it can offer these partnering sessions online. The association is also exploring ways it can host other virtual events, as well as opportunities for the ARHCA CEO and board of directors to meet online with members.

 

Safety training

Since the mid-2000s, ARHCA has offered the Roadbuilder Safety Training System (RSTS) program, which is aimed at promoting general safety awareness training for workers in the roadbuilding and heavy construction industry.

Glen says while the program isn’t meant to replace on-site training, it does outline the safety guidelines and hazard awareness for the roadbuilding industry from traffic accommodation and hoisting and rigging, to asphalt, paving and confined spaces.

“It really touches on all aspects of roadbuilding from beginning to end. So it’s a nice entry way for new employees, and it’s a really good refresher for employees that are more experienced to make sure that they are safe on the job,” he said.

Glen says the RSTS program, which is currently on the Alberta Construction Safety Association website, will be moving to ARHCA’s website in December. He says a revamped version of the online program is being developed under the guidance of ARHCA’s Safety Committee and will be ready in November 2021.

“We’re really excited to update our program just for roadbuilders so that we have a new state-of-the-art training program available to all member companies,” said Glen.

ARHCA also has seasonal industry-related safety programs aimed at raising public awareness. It’s Allow for the Plow program is designed to educate Alberta’s drivers about the need for increased safety precautions when snowploughs are on the road, while the Don’t RIP Through Construction Zones program reminds drivers about the need to slow down in construction zones. 

 

 

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.