A campaign launched by GFL is attempting to ensure a December like last year never happens again.
Five deaths at four jobsites over seven days occurred in 2020 in Ontario, which shook the construction industry and prompted calls for action.
GFL’s Get Home Safe for the Holidays campaign aims to remind workers on sites to stop, regroup and look out for each other during the month of December, said Tara Curley, national director of health, safety and environment with the company.
“December is notorious in the construction industry for high incident rates, critical incidents and unfortunately for fatalities,” said Curley. “We started this campaign for everyone to just take five at the start of December. Refocus and work as a team.
“It’s a tough time of year. It’s colder, it’s dark when we start in the morning, we’re pushing to finish jobs before the end of the year. Personally, people have Christmas and gifts, family…and with COVID and everything that has happened I think everybody is even feeling that tiredness a little bit more mentally and physically.”
GFL has been running the campaign internally for the last three years but decided to engage industry partners this year.
The campaign was launched last week (Dec. 6 to 10) but runs throughout the month.
“We’re calling it the launch of the campaign because we’re really hopeful that we will continue to have these conversations and will continue to have this focus all through December,” said Curley.
In addition to conducting safety stand downs at jobsites and work locations across the Greater Toronto Area, the campaign also asked workers, employees, contractors and industry partners to take a pledge of commitment “to never compromise my safety or the safety of my fellow workers, to ensure we all get home safe.”
“We added that one step that we would sign to recommit to safety for the month of December,” Curley noted. “We can do better as an industry. It’s just that simple, but it’s going to take the whole industry to work together to do better.”
The pledge is signed on an eight-by-11-foot banner that is brought from jobsite to jobsite. There were six banners in rotation that went to over 200 projects during the first week, with almost 3,000 signatures collected.
During the launch, safety stand downs occurred on some of the largest construction projects in Toronto with some of the biggest construction players. The Ontario General Contractors Association and League of Champions also supported the campaign.
“Safety stand downs normally happen post incident when something big needs to be communicated. We actually worked with our general contractors, with EllisDon, PCL, Graham, they actually stood down the whole project. The whole project was stopped so that this message could be communicated.
“We wanted everybody to look at each other and say, ‘OK, let’s do this together, lets look out for each other,’ ” she added.
Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton and Chief Prevention Officer Joel Moody attended one of the stand downs last week. In addition to the teams onsite, senior executives also took part.
“What we want is the senior executives from all of these companies giving permission to our workforce to take five when they need it in December,” Curley said.
She hopes the campaign will become an annual event.
“This is the start of what we hope will become an industry week every year,” Curley concluded.
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