OHS Canada Magazine

On N.B. worksites, little changes with respect to mandatory outdoor masks rule

Everyone who lives in Moncton and Campbellton regions now required to wear a mask outside


By Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

(SAINT JOHN, N.B., TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL) — New Brunswick’s new outdoor mask rule has stoked confusion for many who live and work in Zones 1 and 5 — in particular as it applies to those professions that require working outside.

In an attempt to control for further spread of the virus, everyone who lives in the Moncton and Campbellton regions has been required to wear a mask outside, except in their own garden or while walking on a remote trail or open beach or areas with nobody likely to be around, the province’s chief medical officer of health said on Oct. 12.

The new rule, set out by both Dr. Jennifer and Premier Blaine Higgs, came into effect last week.

But in the days that followed, from sidewalks to work sites, residents in Zone 1 have spotted many other people who were not donning masks while outdoors.

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Trevor Dunlay, an ironworker in the Moncton region, said a number of workers on “jobsites aren’t wearing masks — and they better not start.”

Surprisingly, this reality was confirmed, to some extent, by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.

“Employees working outside who can remain two metres (six feet) apart are not obligated to wear masks,” said DTI communications director Melanie Sivret. “However, if social distancing cannot be maintained, staff from Zones 1 and 5 have been directed to wear a mask even when outside.”

DTI has either water and soap, or hand sanitizer, available at all its job sites, as well as masks and other disinfecting materials for shared tools and equipment, said Sivret.

Response from construction sites

Joey Kelly, the provincial treasurer for CUPE Local 1190 — which represents labourers, bridge crews, operation workers and others, said the union has been promoting the need to wear masks according to Public Health guidelines since the spring, but added he heard no new directives extended to mask use in the last few days.

He said the union communicates with human resources and the deputy minister on a bi-weekly basis about any new policies.

With respect to masks, Kelly said, “They should just be seen as another piece of equipment. Like work boots.”

Labourers’ International Union of North America Local 900, who also represents workers on construction, highway and other sites, has witnessed good compliance with respect to mask use, business manager Chris Kenny said.

Dunlay said he’s perfectly fine with how things are and is hoping outdoor mask use rules in the Moncton region won’t lead to any further restrictions.

Kelly said CUPE is reminding workers and employers that workers have the right to refuse unsafe work without being penalized on sites in which there are concerns related to COVID-19 safety protocols, such as masking.

“Construction sites are monitored, as with any other workplace,” said Florence Flower, acting executive director of corporate communications for WorkSafeNB.

“When WorkSafeNB does do an inspection, we ensure that there is an operational plan, that it is adequate, and that it has been properly implemented. We also inspect for any gaps, and can issue an order to comply if gaps are identified.

“If a worker is concerned that a protocol is not being followed,” added Flower, “their first recourse is to voice their concern with their direct supervisor. If no action is taken, then they should contact their joint health and safety committee. They should only contact WorkSafeNB once these two first steps have been taken and the matter has not been resolved.”