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‘Strictly necessary’ maintenance practices can continue on Ontario sports fields

Sports Turf Canada reaches out to its Ontario members


April 9, 2020
By Sports Turf Canada

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Sports Turf Canada has announced that “strictly necessary” maintenance practices can continue on Ontario’s sports fields during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The association has been corresponding with the provincial government regarding what can and can’t be done on fields at this time.

Below is Sports Turf Canada’s message to its Ontario members:

STC has spoken with the Ontario Government and have been advised we can assess our sports field maintenance under the following heading of the Essential Workplaces list, revised April 3, 2020:

Maintenance

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  1. Maintenance, repair and property management services strictly necessary to manage and maintain the safety, security, sanitation and essential operation of institutional, commercial, industrial and residential properties and buildings.

As an industry, we want to show our support in doing everything possible to slow the spread of this virus.  It’s been recommended to hold off on as much as we can for as long as we can and do only what’s strictly necessary.   

ALL PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES MUST BE IN PLACE AT THIS TIME, including but not limited to the following:

  • Social distancing (i.e. staying at least two metres from others, one person per vehicle, staggered shifts & breaks, etc.)
  • Frequent hand washing / sanitizing (i.e. large water bottle with pump and hand soap on vehicles)
  • Workspace, tool and equipment cleaning, (i.e. includes not sharing of equipment or tools unless cleaned between use, wiping down of all vehicles, equipment and tools before and after each shift)
  • Not working if you have any virus symptoms (fever, cough or challenged breathing), etc.

The nature of sports turf management is such that it can be done with distancing measures in place.  This means separation of workers by at least two metres and no public access as per current quarantine and closure restrictions. 

Please note that the ability to maintain sports fields is for work which is “strictly necessary.” For example:

  • Site assessments; removing turf covers; required mowing of turfgrass, aeration, topdressing, fertilization, overseeding, pest management, irrigation; synthetic turf cleaning & disinfecting; garbage pick-up and removal; irrigation infrastructure repairs; maintenance of infields and warning tracks, etc..

This work is required to avoid the following health, sanitation and safety hazards:

  • Safety:  well-maintained turf areas serve as safe sports surfaces. Turf helps to absorb physical impacts and reduce injuries while providing traction and cushioning.  Turf also assists in managing and reducing the infestation of weeds and other unwanted vegetation which can compromise the integrity of the turf stands and therefore the safety of the playing surface.  It must be noted that if fields are not maintained during the quarantine, they may take a significant amount of time to recover later thus leaving them closed for a longer period of time.
  • Safety:  increased vandalism and damage to sports surfaces, structures and facilities on fields.  With the lack of people both going to work and recreating, there may be increased risk associated with people climbing, playing on or purposely damaging field amenities and infrastructure.  The risk to surfaces from four-wheelers, dirt bikes, and other vehicles, as well as to infrastructure, such as fencing, seating, etc.. is elevated during this time. 
  • Sanitation:  Although garbage and other site cleanup requirements are likely reduced during this time and are manageable on a field complex that is well-maintained on a regular basis, with many ignoring quarantine rules and recreating on closed fields with kids and pets, there is an impact on sanitation requirements during this time. 
  • Health benefits:  turf cleanses the air (trapping dust and other particles, pollution, carbon dioxide and filtering it), decreases noise pollution (especially important in urban areas), reduces heat, captures greenhouse gases, thereby counteracting climate change, reduces ticks and other pests populations.
  • Physical and mental health benefits:  millions of people play sports for exercise and relaxation and recreate within turf green spaces.  Once this crisis is over, people will be eager to experience sports again and it will be vital that surfaces are in a ready state for this.  Should fields not be available, this may cause other unintended problems.    

It is recommended that you carry this information, as well as any workplace policies or safety protocols always, in the event of an enforcement experience.  The more we can show we are doing what’s strictly necessary, the better.  We are aware that each municipality has adopted different bylaws to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.  We encourage all of you to work within each of your local respective guidelines using the above information as a communication tool. 

We also encourage our members to reach out to your contractors and suppliers to see if there are different products, technologies or management adjustments that can be made to assist you in your efforts.  For example, with reduced staff, there may be solutions that can assist in either reducing workloads and managing risk or with getting the necessary work done in an alternate manner.

If we all do our part and keep to essential services now, we will all get back to maintaining our fields in ways that we are all accustomed to sooner.

As Trevor Warner of the City of Woodstock stated:  “When this pandemic ceases and the government gives the green light for a normal way of life, we as sports field managers need to be waiting at the gates with keys in our hands, safe and playable infields and warning tracks, the chalk down, the paint straight and bright, and the turf grass striped up and looking sweet so that every adult and every child that has been isolated from the world we know, can walk onto the field/sport of their choice and feel like a big leaguer on opening day.”

As always, feel free to reach out via email to info@sportsturfcanada.com

Thank you very much for your time today and stay healthy and safe!