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B.C. washroom regulations should heed examples of Ontario, Quebec

Dave Baspaly
B.C. washroom regulations should heed examples of Ontario, Quebec

WorkSafeBC, under pressure from Premier David Eby, is developing new regulations to cover washrooms in construction with the final regulations still unsettled.

COCA is actively discussing with WSBC the need for an in-depth, in-person research team to learn from the washroom regulatory experiences of Quebec and Ontario.

We have been very pleased with the thoughtful and careful approach that WorkSafeBC (WSBC) has taken so far with respect to the complex issue of washrooms in construction.

However, the proposed regulations could result in increased costs and complexity at a time when B.C. is committing to build more housing and infrastructure.

We want the best, practical solution to providing clean, accessible washroom facilities for our workers.

We have heard rumours that WSBC intends to gather information and experience from the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. Their implementation of washroom regulations has been going on long enough for them to have gained valuable insights into what works and what does not work.

Our strong recommendation is to send two WSBC staff to these provinces to meet with knowledgeable members of their occupational health and safety systems, including with construction contractors.

There is a lot to learn about the successful design and implementation of the washroom regulations. We have recommended one person with senior experience in developing policy and one person with a background of working in construction. We have strongly recommended in-person meetings.

These will be far more useful and effective in discussing the details of the approach to washroom regulations and the actual experience within the workplace.

In our direct experience, there is no substitute for meeting face to face.

There is an increase in candour and much more opportunity to ask detailed questions. The investment in time and money will be repaid many times by avoiding pitfalls.

The WSBC investigation team would also benefit by touring several construction sites, including those of a minimum size that are required to have plumbed or trailer-based washrooms. There are important lessons to be learned here as well.

We all stand to benefit from the working experience of these two large provinces. We understand the washroom issue will be the subject of a public hearing in August.

It would be very helpful if the information gathering was completed before these hearings.

Over the years, we have seen the unfortunate results of government policies that have been rushed — where the implementation has the opposite effect of what was intended.

The health and safety of our workers is far too important to be impacted by a set of regulations that have not had the benefit of the learnings of other jurisdictions.

The construction industry has made great progress in workplace safety.

In general construction, we have reduced the injury rate from 13 times loss claims per 100 workers in 1992 to 3.4 times loss claims in 2022.

We are working hard for further reductions.

We need a logical, systematic approach to new regulation. Research can go a long way to avoid the pitfalls of rushed, poorly thought out regulation.

Dr. Dave Baspaly is president of the Council of Construction Associations (COCA). Send Industry Perspectives Op-Ed comments and column ideas to editor@journalofcommerce.com.

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