BCCA’s Builders Code helps build positive worksite cultures

Journal of Commerce | Peter Caulfield | June 29, 2022

A growing number of B.C. construction employers are adopting the Builders Code as part of their commitment to reduce bullying, harassment and hazing and establish a standard code of conduct for workers on construction sites.

Created in 2019 by the BC Construction Association (BCCA), the Builders Code defines an “acceptable worksite” as the starting point for reducing risk and ensuring a safe and productive environment for all workers.

And it’s unique in Canada, says BCCA chief strategy officer Lisa Stevens, who was the lead on developing and putting into practice the Builders Code and who now manages it.

The Builders Code complements the provisions of the province’s Workers Compensation Act regarding workplace bullying and harassment, which are enforced by WorkSafeBC (WSBC). 

Ashley Teister, a supervisor on WSBC’s prevention field services construction team, said, “The Builders Code is a great worksite tool, and it will have a huge impact, leading to more females and minorities being employed on construction work sites.

“More employers have started their own good-behaviour and mental health policies, too. The word is beginning to get out.”

Chelle (“Shelly”) Wright, an occupational safety officer on WSBC’s prevention field services construction team, has seen positive changes in the way women are perceived and treated in construction.

“In the four-and-a-half years I’ve been a WorkSafe safety officer I’ve seen workplace diversity increase,” she said.

Wright, who worked in construction for more than 20 years before she became a safety officer, says construction jobs for women were few and far between when she started.

But over the years women have become more accepted in the industry, and Wright has been able to expand her knowledge and experience in ways that she, and other women like her, were unable to do in the past.

One of the reasons for progress has been the Builders Code, says Wright.

She says she knows of several construction companies that have adopted the Builders Code. 

“Everybody experiences things differently,” she said. “The code helps to create a workplace culture where people are able to feel safe to express themselves and to share their thoughts.”

Wright says the best ideas don’t originate with a single individual, but from the collaboration of many different people with their own and different opinions.

“The best ideas can change a workplace culture,” she said. “And a better workplace culture promotes safety, both physically and psychologically. “Promoting psychological health and safety in the workplace allows all workers to have a fulfilling and safe work environment, regardless of their gender, ethnic background or sexual identity.”

Jessica Taylor, another WSBC occupational safety officer, says construction site work forces have become more diverse. 

“I’ve also noticed that some companies have constant employee turnover, while others have very little change,” said Taylor. “I see the same faces over and over again,”

She thinks the difference is because some construction companies ensure their employees are heard and supported, while others aren’t interested in what their workers think.

“The difference, for good or for bad, begins at the top with senior management and works its way down the chain of command to the field operations,” said Taylor.

Impact Drywall Inc. signed the Builders Code in April 2022.

“It’s becoming better for women in construction, but women still face bullying, harassment and ridicule on some work sites,” said Bianca Cooper,  general manager in Impact’s Kelowna office. “I know, because it’s happened to me. I don’t want other women to go through the same thing I had to endure. That’s why the Builders Code is important. The signatories make a pledge and the owners are accountable.”

For the Builders Code to be truly effective, Cooper says, every construction company in BC needs to have signed it.

In addition to diversifying the workplace and bringing in more women, the goal of the Builders Code is to improve worker retention, says the BCCA’s Stevens.

“Many workers drop out of construction after just one year,” said Stevens. “Often the reason is a negative workplace culture.”

The Builders Code is based on an expanded definition of workplace safety to include bullying and harassment.

“Everybody understands workplace safety and accepts the need for it,” said Stevens. “Bad behaviour, such as bullying and harassment, is stressful and distracting for everyone on a worksite, and therefore unsafe.”

The Builders Code is “becoming a success,” says Stevens.

“More than 300 employers have signed the pledge for an acceptable worksite, and there have been more than 3,000 downloads of free Builders Code policies.”

For more information, go to https://www.builderscode.ca/