…and the gifts that it can bring

As I get ready to start another week (Mondays seem to be the only weekday that’s recognizable amid our COVID-confusion) I pause and look back at the one we just finished. In a world that’s moving slowly and repetitively, where every day feels like Groundhog Day, it’s easy to wonder what you accomplished. Fortunately, it’s often more than you might think, and there are moments in hindsight that tend to stand out more than others.

Personally, my highlight last week was on Tuesday, April 28th when our Health and Safety Team led a virtual one minute reflection to observe the Day of Mourning, created in 1984 to honour and remember people whose lives have been impacted by workplace injuries, illnesses and tragedies and officially declared by the Canadian Labour Congress. April 28th was intentionally selected as it’s the anniversary of the day that Ontario passed the Workers’ Compensation Act in 1914.

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Our reflection was led by Peter Meneguzzi, VP Construction and Daniel dos Santos, Manager, Health and Safety– and virtually attended by approximately 300 members of the Tridel family.

Before we started the reflection, we were reminded that as a core value of Tridel and Deltera, safety is everyone’s responsibility. We strive to exceed legislative requirements to ensure everyone’s health and safety, and to proactively prevent workplace injuries. While safety – never compromised – has always been top of mind for us, it was particularly meaningful this year, as we have gone above and beyond our usual measures being deemed essential, and doing our best to protect everyone that has continued to work during a pandemic, unlike anything most of us have ever experienced.  For those working in construction, many of us are used to being in an industry facing some of the highest risk of injuries and/or fatalities, however the past two months required an additional level of bravery, and that’s why we refer to our onsite employees as “everyday heroes.”

The truth is that we’ve been very fortunate to have an incredible team and culture, that allow us to tell an amazing story, with an excellent track record. As dos Santos reminded us before our minute of silence, Tridel and Deltera have lost 0 work hours as a result of workplace injury. While one would hope it’s something that no one takes for granted, you can be certain that this year, that’s not even possible. This year, we faced unprecedented risks and fears. But we know we weren’t the only ones.

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While we tend to think of the of the workplace through our own lens, this year we couldn’t help but consider it from a broader perspective, and in particular think of the frontline workers who have been critical to helping us navigate this mysterious and unpredictable virus.

In addition to health care workers, there have been other “essential” workers who have helped our  cities maintain a pulse, albeit a weakened one. And it just so happens that a lot of them are women. Campbell Robertson and Robert Gebeloff’s article in the New York Times “When it comes to essential, it’s a woman’s world today”  paid tribute to the fact that one in three jobs held by woman has been designated as essential, so the odds are, the face you see when engaging with a front line worker during the pandemic is a woman’s. As a woman, I can’t help but feel proud.

Typically, men dominate the work force however COVID-19 and the definition of “essential services” turned that on its head. Men comprise 28% of the essential workforce, according to the article. While they make up most sectors such as law enforcement, transit, public utilities and in some cases where still deemed essential, building trades including carpentry and construction, health care grossly outnumbers all these jobs. In the U.S. there are 19 million health care workers – four registered nurses for every police officer. Women are also reported to be 73% of the healthcare workers infected from COVID-19.

Like most, I wasn’t aware that health care is more “physical” than expected.  You can imagine my surprise to learn that “workers in health care and social assistance suffer nonfatal injuries on the job at a rate higher than workers in construction or manufacturing.”

So, when we paused for a moment of reflection on Tuesday, it’s easy to understand why the picture was bigger this year. And while that can intensify the pain and the concern, it somehow brought with it some hidden gifts. The gift of even more empathy for everyone facing the risks of injury, illness and tragedy. The gift of collective strength, more powerful than any of us could have mustered on our own. The gift of allowing a group of 300 people to honour this day together (yet apart). Each of these, were a few more of the silver linings that we all had the privilege of discovering together.

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