A day on the job will soon (finally) get easier for women on construction sites. 

Yesterday, the Ontario government announced changes to the washroom facilities on the province’s construction sites -- something that includes the addition of women-only bathrooms. 

Currently, only one in 10 of Ontario’s construction workers are women. But, let’s be honest, it hasn’t exactly been known as the most inviting or enticing profession for many women. Now, however, skilled trades will be a little more accessible, with job sites that will all feature at least one women-only washroom and properly fitting equipment like uniforms, boots, and safety harnesses. At last.

“Access to a washroom is a basic human dignity and something every worker should have the right to,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. “Careers in construction offer six-figure salaries with pensions and benefits, and it is an injustice only 10% of them are filled by women. Under the leadership of Premier Ford, our government will continue to stand with these heroes. Everyone has the right to a safe and welcoming workplace.”

Apparently, the washroom facilities on the province’s construction sites aren’t exactly as world-class as some of the province’s construction projects. As the Toronto Starreports, an inspection blitz last month by the Ministry of Labour at more than 1,800 construction sites found 244 violations, with the most common being no toilets, lack of privacy, or a lack of cleaning. 

McNaughton says that the government will further improve portable washrooms by requiring them to be private and completely enclosed, have adequate lighting, and provide hand sanitizer (where running water is not reasonably possible). Additionally, the government is doubling the number of toilets on most jobsites.

Furthermore, proposed (completely overdue) amendments to the Construction Projects Regulation, if approved, would explicitly require that personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing be properly fitted to women and workers with diverse body types.

"Over the course of years (and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic), the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario has been advocating for better sanitary conditions on construction jobsites, including access to water, clean-up facilities and adequate washrooms for all construction workers to use,” said Carmine Tiano, Director of Occupational Services – Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario. “This announcement sheds light on an issue that is often overlooked but critically important to the successful building of Ontario’s infrastructure. Requiring all construction jobsites to have adequate and well-kept washrooms and clean-up facilities, including dedicated washrooms for women as well as proper-fitting Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), brings us a step closer towards ensuring equity on construction worksites."

These changes are part of a larger package that expands on what the provincial government calls the “ground-breaking” actions introduced in the Working for Workers Acts, 2021 and 2022, which it says are already helping millions of people. According to the Province, these changes are intended to meet labour demand, bring better jobs and pay cheques to more people, and attract thriving workers. 

The proposed regulatory amendments, if approved and filed, would come into force on the July 1, 2023.

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