BC Building Trades Unions Go After Construction Site Sanitation Conditions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 19, 2020

Building Trades Council calls for public inquiry into construction site sanitation

Pandemic has exposed a “culture of non-compliance”

The BC Building Trades Council is calling for a public inquiry into health and safety in the construction sector.

The inquiry is one of the council’s recommendations to the Premier’s Economic Recovery Task Force, which brings together leaders from labour, business, First Nations and the non-profit sector to inform the province’s economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has exposed a culture of non-compliance in certain segments of our industry,” said Andrew Mercier, BCBT executive director. “Construction site sanitation only improved after WorkSafeBC launched an aggressive inspection initiative in response to the concerns we raised.”

Mercier warns that without continued enforcement, sanitation practices will return to their poor pre-pandemic state.

“The legacy of COVID-19 should be safe and healthy construction sites where sanitation and hygiene practices abide WorkSafeBC’s occupational health and safety regulations, and the orders of the public health officer,” said Mercier. “Construction sites that fail to do so should not be tolerated.”

BCBT, which represents 35,000 unionized construction workers, has been advocating on behalf of construction workers from across the sector (members and non-members) on site sanitation since the start of the pandemic. Workers called and emailed the Building Trades to report inadequate washroom facilities, a lack of running water, no soap or hand sanitizer, workers sharing tools and working too close to each other, and workers coming to their sites visibly sick.

“We have had no hand sanitizer, no provisions for hand-washing, and no safety talks about hygiene and the pandemic,” wrote one worker. “People are sneezing and coughing and obviously sick and are not being asked to go home.”

Another worker reported the only hand-washing station on a site with over 50 people being a hand-crank garden hose attached to a piece of wood offering only cold water.

WorkSafeBC introduced a new “inspectional initiative” to address sanitation on construction sites, which was a positive first step, said Mercier. While acknowledging those contractors who prioritize worker health and safety and ensured their sites were compliant with regulations and public health orders, Mercier says industry regulators must remain vigilant to prevent a backslide.

“We must do everything we can to ensure people are working safely,” said Mercier. “The construction sector is essential to our economic recovery – ensuring construction workers are safe and healthy isn’t optional.”

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Job Site Safety-COVID-19 Member Rights and Responsibilities

These are still crazy times. We all must stay informed and when we go to work not accept anything less than what is required by the Provincial Health Officer, Center for Disease Control and WorkSafe BC. Below are links to critical information about what employers have to do to protect you on the job. Hand in hand with that is what we should be doing to protect each other. Remember many of us have contact with older relatives in our home, children and spouses. If you have any symptoms stay home for at least ten days. If you have been exposed to someone with a Positive COVID19 test, then self isolate for 14 days. They are making it much easier to get tested now. Just call your doctor for a telephone consultation and explain your symptoms. You will most likely be given an immediate appointment for testing. Remember if you have to stay home because of the covid you can collect the CERB benefit of 500 per week for up to 16 weeks. Check the link to confirm you would be eligible.

Worksafe BC Regulations and Guidelines Concerning Lunch Rooms Washrooms Changing Areas. The Public Health Officer has now made it more imperative to follow the guidelines.

Provincial Health Officer Order re Industrial Camps

Provincial Infection Prevention and Control Officers

Guidance to Construction Sites-BC Public Health

Guidance to Mining and Smelting Operations

WorkSafe BC Frequently Asked Questions

During the Work Slowdown

Now is a good time for health and safety training and apprenticeship training. Our apprenticeship training will soon be available with an online component to handle the classroom work and testing and scheduled practical sessions using proper physical distancing to protect your health. Let’s make lemon-aid out of this COVID19 lemon we have to chew on right now. Contact Sharon at the office 604-584-2021 or Geoff at 778-847-2472 to get you name on the list for apprenticeship training. Check back on this site for links to online health and safety training including the new Regional Safety Training Course. for now, enform/ossa (the new Energy Safety canada group) has extended the expiry date of all tickets that expire in the first half of 2020 to September.