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

Heavy rain and strong winds forecast for Parksville Qualicum Beach region

Environment Canada issues wind warning as ‘vigorous’ frontal system approaches

VIJHL season could start Oct. 1, says league president

League awaiting final approval from local health authorities and viaSport

Dougal the blind raven enjoys role as ambassador at North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre

Bird helps animal care technicians teach visitors about his species

RCMP: Trio arrested, firearms seized after report of shots fired in rural Qualicum Beach

Police say search also found evidence of large-scale drug operation

UPDATE: Qualicum Beach man, 51, dies in kayaking incident

No foul play suspected; body was found floating near Lasqueti Island

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Vancouver Island sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Oak Bay man was attempting to circumnavigate the world solo

Majority needed to pass COVID-19 budget, B.C. premier says

John Horgan pushes urgent care centres in first campaign stop

Most Read