Safety in the Workplace: COVID-19 Edition

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the construction industry has been consistently and rapidly evolving to ensure workers are safe, employers have the resources they need to adhere to health & safety guidelines and both groups are supported in the process. As B.C.’s construction industry was deemed an essential service at an early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations in the construction industry have been working to provide employers and workers with the required resources to continue working safely. 

We took some time to chat with Mike McKenna, Executive Director at the B.C. Construction Safety Alliance (BCCSA), to get the inside scoop on how our members can stay safe while we patiently wait for a COVID-19 vaccine. 

In terms of health and safety, what have been the most significant impacts on employers as a result of the pandemic?

“For smaller companies who don’t have their own health and safety professionals or the resources, it was really important for us at the BCCSA to develop resources in a consumable format, making it easier for companies to actually adhere to these newly implemented health and safety guidelines.  All around, the most significant impact on employers has been to ensure an industry, which is outward-facing in terms of the public, can “up” their game and put a myriad of new protocols in place, as well as show evidence that these protocols exist, in an extremely efficient manner while continuing to work throughout the pandemic.” 

What have been the main protocols put in place on job sites since the pandemic began?

“Since the pandemic began, the main protocols that have been put in place are not much different from what our provincial health officer has been dictating to the public over the last couple of months: physical distancing, increased hygiene, wear a mask if you can and stay home if you aren’t feeling well.”

Is there anything that employers can do now to mitigate the impacts of the changes on their businesses?

“Don’t let your guard down. There’s been a huge push for everyone to just “get back to normal” as schools are reopening and B.C. is currently in Phase Three of the reopening plan; however, the industry cannot get lax as there’s still a ways to go with COVID-19 and our new way of working. It is crucial for all employers to just keep their foot on the pedal and continue to uphold the protocols and health & safety guidelines that have been developed.”

What impacts has the pandemic had on the mental health of workers, and how can our members best support workers and their families? 

“While all industries have been dealing with a variety of mental health issues due to financial constraints and other stresses, construction is unique because it was deemed essential and, generally, everyone kept working. The issues that construction is dealing with are, “what happens when you get home” and the stresses related to working through a pandemic.”

“To help construction workers through this, as an Association we partnered with British Columbia Municipal Safety Association (BCMSPA) to create a five-part mental health series, “The Psychological Support Toolkit.” It has been completely tailored to the construction industry and each session is being recorded so it can be streamed at any time for anyone who may need it. The five parts include: 1) Identifying psychological impacts and needs due to COVI-19, 2) Skills for communicating effectively with people experiencing psychological distress, 3) Exploring substance use and impacts during COVID-19, 4) Support for managers and leaders: how to respond to your team’s psychological needs during COVID-19 and 5) Industry leader’s panel.”

Can you explain how WorkSafeBC is supporting employers affected by the pandemic? 

“BCCSA sees WorkSafeBC as a partner. They’ve been supporting workers by conducting inspections remotely, taking into account that this is a very difficult time for everyone, helping produce resources early on and partnering with employers, in a practical way, onsite to help however they can.”

What tools and resources are available to assist our members?

“BCCSA has worked with various associations and organizations, including CLR, to develop resources for the benefit of employers. BCCSA’s website is a one-stop shop for the entire construction industry. Additionally, WorkSafe BC has great resources on how to put together a COVID-19 safety plan and CCA also has a thorough list of resources.

To check out BCCSA’s many COVID-19 resources, click here