B.C. construction unions demand flush toilets on worksites in new report

Journal of Commerce | DCN-JOC News Services | October 11, 2023

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. – British Columbia’s construction unions are demanding a sanitation upgrade on worksites.

The BC Building Trades has released an Update on Washroom Facilities in the Construction Industry, a report that recommends construction sites with 25 workers or more be required to have flush toilets, citing a similar requirement that has been in place in Quebec since 2015.

“Enough is enough. Nearly every other industry from film to events and tourism has found a way to bring clean, flushing toilet facilities to mobile sites. Construction workers deserve flush toilets now,” said BC Building Trades Council executive director Brynn Bourke.

“Construction workers have been faced with unsanitary and undignified washroom conditions for too long. We need the provincial government to step in and stand up for the people who build this province.”

The report is accompanied by a letter-writing campaign which Bourke said should resonate beyond the industry.

“We’re asking workers across the province, whether they work in an office, a classroom, or a health care setting, to imagine having to use disgusting porta-potties at work,” Bourke said. “The fact of the matter is, most people would not tolerate porta-potties, and construction workers shouldn’t have to either.”

The BC Building Trades initially published a report on sanitary conditions on construction sites in spring 2021 which examined existing approaches by employers in providing washrooms on sites and the governing regu­latory framework under the Workers Compensa­tion Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation along with related guidelines.

That report recommended employers:

  • Supply plumbed washroom facilities – includ­ing the option of portable plumbed washrooms.
  • Provide access to handwashing facilities close to washrooms.
  • Ensure washrooms are properly cleaned, disin­fected and maintained.
  • Ensure washrooms have proper heating and illumination.
  • Ensure washrooms are within appropriate walking distance for workers.

The new report says little progress has been made and that additionally it recommends flushed toilets on construction sites with more than 25 workers and the use of portable flush facilities on sites.

It also encourages the adoption of the definition of “plumbed” in the BC Plumbing Code: “Plumbing system means a drainage system, a venting system and a water system or parts thereof.”

The BC Building Trades Council represents 22 craft construction unions and more than 40,000 unionized workers. It first launched its “Get Flushed” campaign following significant health and safety concerns in the construction industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.