Calls for public inquiry into BC construction industry's health safety measures

May 19 2020, 12:28 pm

Amidst allegations that there is non-compliance at construction sites with the provincial government’s COVID-19 health safety measures, BC Building Trades Council (BCBTC) is calling for a public inquiry into the practices of the province’s construction sector.

The council, which represents about 35,000 workers with over two dozen local construction unions, alleges construction sites across the province are falling behind with meeting the proper enhanced health safety measures.

This is a requirement in exchange for BC provincial health officer’s designation of the construction and trades sectors as essential services during the pandemic.

The organization asserts conditions have only improved after WorkSafeBC launched an aggressive inspection initiative in response to the concerns they raised.

“The pandemic has exposed a culture of non-compliance in certain segments of our industry,” said Andrew Mercier, executive director of BCBTC, in a statement.

An inquiry is one of the recommendations to Premier John Horgan’s Economic Recovery Task Force.

BCBTC has received complaints from workers reporting inadequate washroom facilities, a lack of running water, no soap or hand sanitizer, workers sharing tools, the lack of physical distancing, and workers coming to construction sites experiencing symptoms of an illness. They allege workers who are obviously sick — sneezing and coughing — are not being asked to go home.

One other worker reported the only hand-washing station at their site with over 50 people was a hand-cranked garden hose attached to a piece of wood that released only cold water.

“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. Construction sites that fail to do so should not be tolerated,” Mercier said.

He adds that the construction sector is a cornerstone for BC’s economic recovery, and for this reason there needs to be a higher level of industry compliance to ensure this industry can continue to operate.