When you gotta go, you gotta go and every construction tradesperson knows that where you go isn’t always ideal but it’s close at hand.
That’s changed with the impact of COVID-19 as general contractors ramp up the cleaning cycles and the type of toilet units on their sites in an effort to provide both more space for social distancing, cleaner interior surfaces and better hand washing facilities.
“It’s true, I said the other day, in 35 years I have never seen the toilet facilities so clean,” says Horacio Leal, a representative for the United Carpenters and Allied Workers Local 27. “Before COVID you’d see cleaning twice maybe three times a month. This is what is should be.”
He says there’s going to be pressure to maintain the same high standards of facilities and cleaning after COVID-19 because it’s the right thing to do.
In addition to the standard, cramped, one person poly-plastic booth unit, GCs are also ordering up two sink units which have more room.
Tradeswomen especially appreciate the new normal since the larger units give them more space to unbundle their often bulky overalls, a problem their male counterparts usually don’t have to deal with.
Roger Winter, of K. Winter Sanitation, says demand has really kicked up with the impact of COVID.
“The Ministry of Labour is also out there pressing for heated water in sinks for better hand washing which is really important for the tradespeople,” Winter says. “They need to wash their hands before lunch and during the day. Sometimes before they touch another tool.”
Leal says social distancing is a challenge but GCs have gone the extra mile, adding change rooms and staggering breaks.
“They also take temperatures every morning at some sites,” he says. “We applaud this, from the subs all the way up. They’re really making an effort to create enough space to have a sandwich but maintain social distance, providing masking, everything you need on the job.”
The difference is noticeable, Leal adds.
“These facilities look like the washrooms in a mall. If there’s a problem, we call the GC and its fixed right away, in hours, not even days.”
The extra demand has put pressure on the suppliers of sanitation facilities like K. Winter, a family run business now run by the son of the founder.
“We’ve seen about a 300 per cent increase in business,” says Winter who has about 3,000 units in circulation throughout the GTA. “They want more units, more cleaning, more service and hand washing facilities.”
K. Winter manufacturers their own units and is struggling to keep up with demand, he adds.
“We had a lot of material on hand for production and our suppliers have managed to get more to us,” he says. “But it’s been hard hiring people.
“People are scared. Still we have hired some good people and we are hiring more.”
The big demand is for the double sink units which are larger and come on a skid, he adds.
“We don’t make the units on wheels because they tend to rust out after a couple of years,” he says. “But the double sinks with heated water means you can move more people through faster.”
He says the cleaning cycle depends on the size of the construction site and the number of tradespeople working there.
“On smaller sites we may clean once a week but the majority are three times a week to twice a week,” Winter says.
It’s important not just for safety of the workers but also for the job, he adds. Some trades won’t come to a site unless it’s well serviced. So attracting and keeping the right people with the right skills becomes a lot more about keeping them happy.
Further, if an outbreak occurs then the site is shut down and that’s going to cost a lot more money in the long run, he says.