A construction site in Langley’s Willoughby neighbourhood August 23, 2020. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

How a push for better COVID protections helped B.C. construction workers keep going

Building Trades Council executive director Andrew Mercier maintains the measures prevented a shutdown

This Labour Day, Monday, Sept. 7, executive director of the BC Building Trades Council Andrew Mercier will be working. It may be an annual holiday that celebrates workers, but he has work to do.

“It’s not a day I’ll be taking off,” Mercier remarked.

For Mercier, a Langley resident who took over as the new executive director just a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the day will give him a chance to catch up on some of the non-COVID-19 matters that have had to be put on the back burner during the current pandemic.

It has been a hectic time for the council, which has been pressing for improved protective measures for construction workers during the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Construction group calls for more government oversight of building sites

One very bad example of the situation that Mercier likes to cite concerns a work site, early on in the pandemic, where the sanitation was something less than an afterthought.

“A hand-washing station was a two-by-four duct-taped to a hose, and a bar of soap,” Mercier recalled.

He credits WorkSafe BC for taking the matter seriously, assigning hundreds of inspectors to enforce standards at all sites in the province to make sure construction workers were safe on the job.

“They (WorkSafe) reacted with lightning speed,” Mercier commented.

As a result, he believes, the B.C. construction industry as a whole managed to avoid the widespread shutdowns seen in Ontario and Quebec.

“You had workers staying home, you had projects shutting down [in those provinces],” Mercier told the Langley Advance Times.

“The difference is policy,” he said.

Without the quick response, “we would have had an industry shutdown,” Mercier added. “It’s a testament to the people at WorkSafe BC.”

At big sites, such as the LNG Canada and Site C Dam construction projects, where workers live together in camps, crews were screened before traveling to the camps.

When some at Site C showed symptoms after arriving, a trailer was set aside for isolation.

Some sites did close down altogether, like the Kemano tunneling project, where there was no way to run tunnel-boring machines without people being in close proximity to each other.

READ ALSO: New rules issued for B.C. construction projects, work camps for COVID-19

Other industries in B.C. have also benefited from the attention to coronavirus safety, with WorkSafe applying lessons learned from the construction sector, Mercier added.

So has the non-union construction sector, which is responsible for most of the residential projects in Langley and other B.C. communities.

Mercier said when it comes to safety, it doesn’t matter whether a worker is under a collective agreement.

“I don’t care if you’re union or non-union, call us [if you have a safety concern],” Mercier said.

READ ALSO: B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

His message to workers on Labour Day is one of gratitude.

“I just want to thank the working people at Langley, the people who do the hard work, and keep the lights on, and grocery stockers,” Mercier commented.

“They’re the real heroes.”

BC Building Trades Council represents 25 local unions belonging to 13 international unions. There are approximately 35,000 unionized construction workers in B.C.



dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

ConstructionLabourLangley

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Staff member at Surrey long-term care facility diagnosed with COVID-19

Fraser Health said a rapid response team is on site

White Rock’s namesake spray-painted black

Vandalism occurred sometime between Friday and Saturday

South Surrey resident blames city after house floods

Marilyn Molter said debris from city-planted maple trees easily clogs street drains

Surrey’s Johnston Heights reporting COVID-19 exposure

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

Senior White Rock election worker not concerned about safety at the polls

‘Casting your vote will be like getting a take out coffee,’ says Elections BC CEO

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

Victoria-area RCMP locate high-risk sex offender thanks to help of taxi cab driver

Scott Jones wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, ‘a risk to women and girls,’ police say

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

Horgan, Wilkinson trade barbs over MSP premiums, health care at campaign stops

Horgan called a snap election for Oct. 24 earlier this week

VIDEO: COVID won’t dampen Lower Mainland woman’s Halloween spirit

Langley’s Tanya Reid posted video offering suggestions of how trick-or-treating might look for her

Most Read