I'm normally politically correct but...
But today I am tired, I am worried, and I am saddened. With the announcement that construction is still considered an essential service, comments have been popping up on media sites from workers and their families. Like this one from Jessica who posted to Ontario Construction News:
"...my husband is supposed to continue to go to his job site each and every day with the risk of coming home and infecting myself and our three kids. The rest of us are self isolating at home but all this is pointless if he has to keep going to work and possibly expose our whole family to this virus. I understand the essential business’s still need to operate but why risk the lives of so many others. What is more important during this terrifying time? The safety of our children or the jobsite that daddy has to go to every single day. He does not have access to a sanitary washroom or even a place to wash his hands. Someone please explain to me why his life and our lives aren’t as important as everyone else who able to protect their families 100 per cent by staying at home."
Many workers are scared. Their families are scared. And rightly so. This is an uncertain new world that we are living in right now. I know I have had moments this past week where I have completely identified with Jessica's comments too.
I am heartened to read reports of many companies and unions acting quickly to step up to add additional safety measures. Their stories should serve as inspiration for best practices to all companies. More porta-potties, more hand washing stations, increased social distancing, staggering breaks and extending project deadlines are just some controls these larger companies are putting in place. It's not easy or inexpensive to quickly change direction, but many companies are doing just that, using super human efforts to change processes and introduce controls that didn't exist a mere two weeks ago. We started posting these resources on our website which you can read here. But there is one type of specific situation that weighs me down the most.
It is the small company.
Not all...just one breed in particular.
The one who already doesn't care much about health and safety. I've heard you in our classrooms, grumbling about conspiracy theories and money grabs. The one who feels you don't need training because you've never had an accident before - "we've always done it this way" is your go-to answer for everything. You don't need to change and you certainly don't bother to take care of your workers despite the regulations and threat of fines.
And now that we are in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, I am worried that you, the health and safety nay-sayer, will do little to nothing to protect your workers from this. And in failing them, you will be failing the rest of us by allowing situations where the virus can spread. You are a risk to everyone.
In a 2018 Report released by the (then) Ministry of Labour that studied over 92 fatal falls, a very clear picture emerged from the data. Workers most likely to experience a fatal fall were definfed by the following criteria:
If you work for a company that fits the above description, I would urge you to exercise your rights. If your company has historically not done much to protect you from other workplace injuries, what makes you think they will start now?
If your job site is unsafe, if you feel exposed to the COVID-19 virus then don't go, or quit, or try to be the change. But in the end, if your employer is not going to stand up for your safety, then go find an employer who will. No paycheque can replace you, or the deep value you have to your children, spouse, partner, parents and friends who love you.
To all the companies out there who are struggling to navigate through all the recent changes, I urge you to make one decision first. Be the hero.
Do the right thing for your workers. They are looking to you for answers and guidance. You need to start with this one simple decision which will lead you in right the direction find the best answers. There are many of us out there willing to give you a lending hand, answer your questions and help you create new policies and source solutions. You are not alone in this. We all need to work together to flatten the curve.