COVID-19 restrictions have been difficult for everyone, but other than health, there is something positive coming out of recent events.
Sanitation at construction sites, long a concern for workers, has vastly improved, notes Jim Noon, President of the Vancouver Island Building Trades Council.
Government-mandated handwashing stations at construction sites is something Noon says is much appreciated by the approximately 6,000 unionized construction workers on the Island.
“Over the years we haven’t had proper handwashing stations at construction sites, which hasn’t been enforced because it is in WorkSafe regulations,” Noon observes. “The requirements were outlined, but they haven’t been regulated until COVID-19.
“Since COVID-19 has come, the government has deemed construction essential services, and the government has demanded that construction sites are equipped with proper hand sanitizer, and that handwashing sites are properly maintained.”
Noon notes that until the crisis, many sites haven’t had running water to enable workers to wash their hands on a frequent basis.
“Since COVID-19, WorkSafe BC has been reaching out and going to job sites to make sure the sites are compliant,” he adds. “What they’ve done is start a new initiative called the ‘Inspectional Initiative’, which is WorkSafe BC addressing sanitation on construction sites.
It’s the first step to make sure that our people working on construction sites have sanitation facilities available.”
Noon says it’s unfortunate that it has taken a pandemic and a virus like COVID-19 to bring the issue to the forefront, as it should have been dealt with years ago.
“I want to make sure that the sanitation and hand washing standards will continue as we move forward, not just for COVID-19,” he states. “Our concern is that a lot of our members pick up influenzas and flu bugs regularly due to not having proper protection. We have lost members from work due to being off sick because of not having hand washing stations installed.
“We inform our members that they have the right to refuse to work if the site doesn’t provide proper hand washing and sanitation on site. They can now call in an anonymous number through WorkSafe BC to report any violations.”
Since the creation of WorkSafe BC’s inspectional initiative, they have done over 1,000 inspections of construction sites in order to ensure compliance with the PHO orders on social distancing and sanitation.
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