Ontario plans to require women only bathrooms on large construction sites

This may not be surprising but some of dirtiest workplace washrooms in Ontario are on construction sites. Shauna Hunt with the Ministry of Labour’s bathroom blitz and the crack down on unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

By Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

Ontario’s labour minister is aiming to solve an excrement predicament.

Monte McNaughton announced Wednesday that he is proposing to amend rules about bathrooms on construction sites to make them cleaner, safer and provide some for women only.

A Ministry of Labour bathroom inspection blitz last month at more than 1,800 construction sites found 244 violations, the most common being no toilets provided, a lack of privacy, or a lack of cleaning.

“In what other industry would this be acceptable, right?” McNaughton said in an interview.

“These are men and women, not livestock, and it’s important that they get the respect that they deserve. If we’re going to encourage men and women into the skilled trades, then we need to ensure that we have proper facilities for them to use.”

McNaughton said he hears often from women in the skilled trades with stories about deplorable bathroom conditions. The labour minister set the stage for this announcement last month when he put out a call for workers to send him their bathroom horror stories.

“It’s just a big pile of feces,” said iron worker Mahee de Repentigny in a video featured on McNaughton’s Twitter feed.

“No flushing, no water, no soap, no paper, no nothing. Might as well just go outside at that point.”

She said she will sometimes have to leave work to find a Tim Hortons bathroom because the toilet on the site feels unsafe.

Requiring at least one women’s only toilet on large construction sites is one of a host of regulatory changes McNaughton is proposing. They come in conjunction with labour legislation set to be introduced this spring that includes greater protections for remote workers in mass layoffs and other, yet-to-be-announced changes.

The President of the Canadian Association of Women in Construction Luana Buraynski tells CityNews the washroom situation is one factor that often turns women off when considering a career in the trades.

“Especially when it’s that time of the month, women have different needs than men you absolutely said that very right,” said Buraynski. “We have got to work with the general contractors and building owners to ensure there is safe, healthy, and clean conditions for diversity and inclusion.”

Right now, there are nearly 600,000 construction workers in Ontario. Only one in 10 are women but those numbers may soon look different. According to the Ministry of Labour, there has been a 23 per cent increase in overall apprenticeship registrations year-over-year.

The bathroom-related changes would also double the number of toilets required on construction sites, require adequate lighting, require hand sanitizer where there is no running water, and require single toilets to be completely enclosed. Some portable toilets are only three-quarters of an adult’s height with no roof, McNaughton said. Those would be banned.

Keeping toilets in a state of good repair is already required under current rules.

“Clearly, that’s not happening,” McNaughton said. “This new legislation will enhance every tool that we have to ensure that washrooms are cleaner than they ever have been on job sites.”

It would also extend the good-repair requirement to urinals and cleanup facilities, such as stations with sinks.

McNaughton is also proposing to strengthen language in a requirement that personal protective equipment be properly fitted, so women and “workers with diverse body types” are specifically taken into account.

The new rules would come into force on July 1, if approved and filed by the government.

With files from Shauna Hunt of CityNews

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