Ontario’s labour minister is bringing the hammer down on the dilapidated washroom situations within construction sites.
The Ministry of Labour inspections at more than 1,800 construction sites in February found 244 violations. Washrooms were found with doors missing, uncleaned and some sites had no washroom at all.
Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton announced a proposal which calls for the doubling of required washrooms, keeping them cleaner and arranging women-only washrooms on sites.
“These are men and women building the projects that we all need, not livestock and we need to treat them like the heroes that they are,” McNaughton said.
McNaughton told Humber News the investigation blitz spotlighted the government’s past neglect for construction washroom standards.
He said that currently, there is no requirement for porta-potties to be completely covered.
“I’m 6-2, they [porta-potties] go up about three-quarters of my height, but there’s no roof on them,” he said.
Legislation will be adjusted to ban uncovered toilets along with all other proposed changes on July 1.
Companies may have received slaps on the wrist for their violations this time but follow-ups will be happening. Fines for breaking these laws will also be increased to a max of $2 million from $1.5 million.
Fines of that amount were previously reserved for occurrences that lead to serious injury or death. McNaughton said any health and safety violation can be up to $2 million after legislation passing
“The men and women in construction will see a noticeable improvement almost immediately,” McNaughton said.
The Ministry of Labour hired more than 100 health inspectors in the past 18 months who will work to ensure washrooms are kept clean and in accordance with new regulations.
“These are changes every construction worker and their mother has been waiting for,” said electrician Jeremy McKinnon, working on a condominium site at Bathurst and King Streets.
McKinnon has been in the trades for 28 years. He said that construction is a messy profession, meaning washrooms get dirty effortlessly. It becomes quickly apparent when washroom maintenance is neglected.
Using washrooms from neighbouring pizza or coffee shops is something McKinnon has done before on work breaks to sidestep the toilets on site.
“It’s not like they’re much better,” McKinnon said. “But they’re still loads better than some of the washrooms I’ve had to deal with on my previous sites.”
McKinnon said he’s not alone in this sentiment either, recalling former coworkers who preferred being docked a half hour to drive home to use their own washrooms.
A coworker of Mckinnon’s knows all women in the trades are rejoicing after this announcement, including herself.
The site’s head of safety Anya Celisa wonders why genders ever had to share washrooms in the first place.
“It is basic human decency to have a proper washroom at work, I don’t know how it’s gotten to the point where that became something we needed to fight for,” Celisa said.
She said this change will make construction a more welcoming environment to women.
“The reality is not many women do this job and while I don’t think it’s because of the washrooms, it doesn’t help when you need to worry about where you’re taking a number two,” Celisa said.
Women account for one out of 10 construction workers in the province, according to an Ontario statement.
Foreman of the site, Serafim Botelho, said washrooms are cleaned multiple times a day and that a women’s washroom was available since people were employed to begin constructing.
“These people build where we live, eat, they build the roads we drive on, It’s a very demanding job,” Botelho said
He said the doubling of required washrooms on site was unexpected since he never heard complaints about unavailability.
“That’s something I wouldn’t say our site struggles with but I don’t see any issue with renting out extra washrooms as long as it makes everyone more comfortable,” Botelho said.