Construction workers sound alarm on unsanitary job conditions

Workers say social distancing, hand washing measures not implemented on some sites

A number of construction workers are reporting unsanitary job site conditions they fear put their health at risk during the current public health crisis.

Reports include inadequate access to washroom facilities, a disregard for social-distancing and workers showing up to job sites sick. On more than one site, workers have no access to hand sanitizer or hand-washing facilities. Multiple workers shared that they risk losing their jobs if they leave, even though colleagues are showing up to work with flu-like symptoms.

Last week, the BC Building Trades Council asked construction workers to report working conditions on job sites during the COVID-19 outbreak. BC Building Trades (BCBT) is now urging WorkSafeBC to enforce mandatory and provincially recommended health and safety practices after reports of unsafe and unsanitary worker conditions.

“Workers are pleading for help – this is urgent,” said BCBT executive director Andrew Mercier in a news release.

“I have been in direct contact with the top brass at WorkSafeBC about this. We need more hand-washing stations. We need better social distancing. Regulations on paper mean nothing if they are not being enforced on the ground.”

One worker who emailed BIV said there are at least 50 people using four washrooms on his Port Moody job site every day, and he has yet to see them cleaned on a daily basis.

Another individual told BIV that a Vancouver site superintendent told workers that he doesn’t care about social distancing: “Either to go to work, or go home.“

A number of the workers who reached out to BCBT – and whose responses have been anonymized – expressed concerns about both continuing to work and about losing their jobs if they chose to stay home or self-isolate. Some have called for non-essential work sites to be shut down.

“The fact no one is shutting these sites down right now is unreal... Well over 200 people sharing this one water hose... No hot water. No hand sanitizer, and five to six bathrooms for the whole site,” wrote one respondent.

Last week, the Urban Development Institute (UDI) said government confirmed that B.C.’s limit on gatherings of more than 50 people does not apply to construction sites. Sites must still follow WorkSafeBC standards and COVID-19 prevention protocols. The latter include additional hand-washing stations and social distancing of one to two metres between workers.

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