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

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

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Providence Health Care has teamed up with partners, including Island Health, to launch the first remote cochlear implant (CI) mapping program for adults in British Columbia. Duncan’s Alan Holt was one of the first to test it out. (Submitted)
Remote cochlear clinic offers shorter commute for patients like Duncan’s Alan Holt

Duncan man one of the first to test virtual mapping program

Larry Fiege, right, from Fiege’s Farm shows a rapt audience the old-fashioned way to tap a Bigleaf Maple during the Maple Syrup Festival at the BC Forest Discovery Centre Feb. 1 and 2, 2020. (Andrea Rondeau/Citizen)
Maple Syrup Festival in Duncan cancelled

The annual syrup festival is a popular event at the BC Forest Discovery Centre

The Lake Cowichan Legion received federal funding in December, 2020 to help the organization weather the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted)
Lake Cowichan Legion receives federal COVID-19 assistance funding

Can be used for expenses such as insurance, utilities, rent or mortgages, property taxes, and wages.

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

The fine for changing lanes or merging over a solid line costs drivers $109 and two penalty points in B.C. (Screenshot via Google Street View)
B.C. drivers caught crossing, merging over solid white lines face hefty fine

Ticket for $109, two penalty points issued under Motor Vehicle Act for crossing solid lines

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A registered nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Yukon’s Minister of Community Services, John Streiker, says he’s outraged that a couple from outside the territory travelled to a remote community this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-POOL
Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail

Metis Nation of B.C. President Clara Morin Dal Col poses in this undated handout photo. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Metis Nation of B.C. *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Metis Nation of B.C. suspends president, citing ‘breach’ of policies, procedures

Vice-president Lissa Smith is stepping in to fill the position on an acting basis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Payette shouldn’t get same benefits as other ex-governors general: O’Toole

Former governors general are entitled to a pension and also get a regular income paid to them for the rest of their lives

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

Most Read