The province is introducing new legislation that would require a better bathroom experience for construction workers, which includes providing on-site toilets for women.
On Wednesday, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton announced a suite of new regulations that, if passed, would involve an overhaul of current guidelines.
Among the changes, washrooms would have to be private and completely enclosed, have adequate lighting and hand sanitizer (where running water is not reasonably possible), and at least one toilet on site has to be designated women-only.
The province said the legislation would also ensure that women would have access to properly fitting equipment such as uniforms, boots and safety harnesses.
Additionally, the government said it would double the number of toilets on most job sites.
At a time when efforts are underway to attract more women to the skilled trades, this is seen as one way to make their experience in construction more comfortable.
“Access to a washroom is a basic human dignity and something every worker should have the right to,” McNaughton said in a news release.
“Careers in construction offer six-figure salaries with pensions and benefits, and it is an injustice that only 10 per cent 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.”
McNaughton recently shared stories on his social media feeds from construction workers complaining about the dirty conditions of on-site washrooms, many of whom said they travel off site to use a toilet rather than use the facilities on site.
One of the replies read by McNaughton was from Alicia Woods, the Sudbury-based entrepreneur who started the women's workwear company Covergalls in 2013.
The design of her female coverall included a "trap door" in order to make using the bathroom easier for women working underground in mining. Her designs have since been adopted by women working in other industries, including construction.
"I simply avoided drinking anything before heading underground for 10 years as I simply refused to take all of my gear off to face a porta potty (and that's if there was one)," she wrote in the reply read by McNaughton. "Then, after having to face a porta potty, with no door and in complete darkness, I created the Covergalls."
McNaughton's announcement has received overwhelming support from industry.
The Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) welcomed the news as “important progress” in creating a more diverse workplace.
“Given the trades shortage, all barriers to entry and retention must be eliminated,” the union said in a news release. “The new measures will further enhance opportunities for women who wish to contribute their skills to our industry.”
The CLAC said that in surveying members, adequate bathroom facilities for women was one of the top concerns in getting more women into the trade. The others were properly fitting PPE and shifts that work around family and childcare obligations.
According to figures from the province, more than 600,000 construction workers currently work in Ontario, but only one in 10 are women.