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McNaughton won’t hesitate to shut unsafe jobsites

Don Wall
McNaughton won’t hesitate to shut unsafe jobsites

Unsafe Ontario construction sites will be shutdown, confirms the province’s labour, training and skills development minister, and he expects the spirit of collaboration between employers, workers and the government will ensure jobsite safety.

“It is truly a partnership between workers and employers, everyone has to work together,” said Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s labour, training and skills development minister.

“From an employer’s perspective, we know most employers are acting in the best interests of their worker in creative safe working conditions, but there are some bad actors out there and we want them to know we are coming for those bad actors if they are not acting in the best interests of their workers.”

In a March 25 interview with the Daily Commercial News McNaughton would not explain how the provincial cabinet made the decision to include construction on its list of essential workplaces. Nor would he comment on whether it was obvious that putting more workers on jobsites would equate to a greater worker risk of contracting the virus.

 

 If they are not safe, then employees can refuse to work,

— Monte McNaughton

Ontario Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development

 

Rather the minister stressed that construction workplaces would be monitored closely by ministry inspectors, that unsafe sites would be shut down and that he was in constant contact with construction stakeholders to obtain their views and review the changing workplace landscape.

“My message is that employers should ensure their workers work in safe working conditions. We are following the advice of the Chief Prevention Officer as well as the Chief Medical Officer of Health to get through this,” explained McNaughton.

“I expect as the minister of labour that our employers are going to keep those jobsites safe. If they are not safe, then employees can refuse to work and the Ministry of Labour will not hesitate to shut unsafe worksites down.”

Inspecting workplaces for healthy and sanitary conditions is now the top priority for inspectors, he said, with workplaces expected to follow new CPO guidelines that have been posted on the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association website.

The Quebec government posted a list of “essential” sectors March 23, the same day as Ontario did, but construction was limited to a narrow range of sectors such as plumbing and electrical work and emergency repairs. McNaughton was asked what criteria the Ontario cabinet had considered, in contrast to the Quebec cabinet, that might have led to the different determinations.

“Obviously cabinet decisions and discussions are confidential but we are monitoring the situation every single day,” he said. “These are unprecedented times. But I can tell all workers out there and the public out there, we are working every single day to ensure those jobsites are safe for workers. I have spoken to hundreds of stakeholders since this crisis broke out, I continue working with stakeholders and I will continue to act in the best interest of the province.”

Asked if decisions are being made with economic consequences part of the considerations, McNaughton said, “The health and safety of workers is always most important but we continue to take advice from the Chief Medical Officer of Health, making decisions based on science and the medical professionals’ advice and we will continue to take that advice.

“I can tell you we have been very clear when it comes to construction and other jobsites that the health and safety of workers is our top priority, it is most important. Employees can refuse work if they believe their health and safety is at risk.”

McNaughton noted that at the beginning of the crisis he had introduced measures protecting the jobs of workers who had to isolate or stay at home to take care of sick relatives.

“That was a clear direction to workers that we are on their side,” he said.

 

Follow the author on Twitter @DonWall_DCN.

Recent Comments (2 comments)

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John Lesar Image John Lesar

The construction sites need time to get things in order…. They cannot change overnight or even a couple weeks… Shut them down now before this gets out of hand…. We hear about the big constructors threatening smaller subcontractors if they don’t show they will be gone…
this is not fair to the smaller companies who in the end have no say

Ben Stegner Image Ben Stegner

It is nice to finally hear that construction workers have legal rights to Not work
on any jobsite that are not safe. Where was this refresher notice after years of
onsite fatality’s , the Province has finally woken up.
Wonder why there is a shortage of apprentices, johnny on the spot toilets are usually a disgusting place to even urinate, there has been no place to wash hands before lunch or coffee breaks,
a large construction site is a war zone on a good day, cranes swinging, heavy equipment at high speed and poorly built scaffolds and mud caves that can snap an ankle in a second. The Province dictates the right to refuse work, lets see how long it would take to be asked to return to work by the employer, paybacks can last many years in the construction world. The big money contractors have no compassion or concern, you are swimming with sharks !

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