Construction sites need stricter oversight, say advocates
Nova Scotia government urged to establish an ombudsman
Advocates in the construction industry are calling for the Nova Scotia government to establish an ombudsman so whistleblowers can come forward without fear of losing their jobs.
Mike Kydd, the president of the Merit Contractors Association of Nova Scotia — an association that represents non-unionized construction companies — said the province's most recent workplace death has shaken the industry and highlighted the need for change.
"If they see something on their job site that isn't right or if they're violating safety concerns to confidently and confidentially go to the ombudsman and report these types of violations," he said.
Safety at construction sites has been in the spotlight since Alan Fraser, a 21-year-old Lower Sackville man, died after a fall in Clayton Park last week. He fell six storeys at a construction site on Greenpark Close, operated by Parkland Construction Inc.
A memorial service for Fraser was held on Tuesday.
Officials have not said whether Fraser was wearing a harness or a lanyard when he fell. There were no guardrails in place at the time. They were installed after Fraser's death.
CBC News has since learned Parkland Construction Inc. has faced three previous orders about falls, according to the provincial Department of Labour. A man fell one floor and broke his legs at the same construction site last month. The employer also faced an order last February at the building next door.
Inspectors noted a lack of fall protection including guard rails or safety nets.
'I was thrown through the air'
Chris Brison, a 25-year-old construction worker, said Fraser's story is all too familiar. Brison was working on a building under construction on Larry Uteck Boulevard last winter — without a harness — when he had a close call.
Brison said he was on the sixth floor of the building and the crew was trying to build a wall out of tarp to heat the area and allow concrete to set.
"I looked up and noticed someone I was working with trying to attach the tarps to two four-by-fours with the intention of throwing them over the edge so that the people on the bottom could catch them and essentially fasten them that way," he told CBC News on Tuesday.
"Unfortunately, the gust picked up and started throwing him around while he was trying to hold on to the tarp so I ran over and hopped in the middle to try to keep it down, at which point I was thrown through the air."
Brison landed on his back and estimated he was thrown about two metres. Luckily, it was toward the middle of the building — not the edge.
He said Fraser's death has hit him hard.
"I'm not the only one who thought it could have been me," said Brison.
"My parents also feel the same way and contacted me directly after hearing about the story and asked me, did I think that less than a year ago I could have been in his shoes."