women only washrooms could soon be required on ontario construction sites scaled
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Women-only washrooms could soon be required on Ontario construction sites

The Ontario government is striving to have more women join and stay in the skilled trade sector by requiring improved washroom facilities and personal protective equipment for those who work in construction.

Speaking at the LiUNA1059 Training Centre in London Wednesday, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton said construction workers across Ontario, regardless of gender, are impacted by the lack of proper facilities. As such, the provincial government is proposing amendments to the Construction Projects Regulation that would make it mandatory for all job sites to provide washrooms that are private and fully enclosed, offer adequate lighting, and hand sanitizer wherever running water is unavailable. They would also have to have at least one women-only washroom on site.

These proposed changes would allow skilled tradespeople the “basic dignity of access to a clean and safe washroom,” McNaughton said.

Last month, an inspection blitz of more than 1,800 job sites in Ontario conducted by ministry officials found over 244 health violations.

Construction sites often have no toilet, whatsoever. Those that do often present other issues, such as a lack of privacy, filthiness, and offering no place for workers to wash their hands, said McNaughton.

The legislation would also double the number of washrooms on most job sites.

Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity Charmaine Williams, who appeared alongside McNaughton, said she had spoken to many women in construction, and many of them have to either leave the job site or make their way to the other end in order to use the washroom.

On top of the lack of adequate facilities, women also face threats to their safety with most PPE designed for male bodies. Essential gear such as coveralls, boots, and harnesses aren’t fitted properly for women in the field.

“These are the things that are contributing to about 50 per cent of women leaving the trades in four years… if we have women working in conditions that are encouraging them, that are making them feel safe, they are going to stay,” said Williams.

The proposed changes would also require women to have access to properly fitting equipment on the job.

“Everyone should have uniforms, boots, and safety harnesses that properly fit. The days of pink it and shrink it are over,” McNaughton added.

Ontario’s continuous efforts to bring more workers into the skilled trades seem to be paying off. McNaughton said there has been a 28 per cent increase in apprenticeship registrations from women in the last year, and a 23 per cent increase overall.

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