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Safety: Masks! Masks! Masks!

Please be diligent. We’re almost out of this, now is not the time to relax. Keep yourselves, your families and your co-workers safe.

September 28, 2021  By James Hong

To begin this article, I’d like to address the recent change in this column’s title. Initially, when I was asked what I’d like for the column title, I took a light-hearted approach and tried to infuse some humour for such a serious topic as safety by using a familiar phrasing for both title and pen name. Given what’s transpired in the last year, including current tensions, I’ve decided to change the title from ‘What Went Wong’ to include my actual name ‘What Went Hong.’ Thank you for your readership and keeping the safety of all in the forefront of your intentions.

COVID-19 mask wearing is required when keeping six feet apart is not possible. Having said that, I consider that rule to be inconsistent with the reality of the construction work environment and the nature of construction teams. Our people are far too busy focussing on doing a professional and safe job to be spending energy on this rule. The solution: keep your mask on.

I am passing along a company wide email I composed not so long ago:

Daily safety toolbox meetings
It’s been a difficult year for everyone. Exhaustion and frustration are natural reactions to the pandemic. Due to recent findings that job site workers are either removing their masks or wearing them incorrectly, we need to firm up our commitment to keeping everyone safe.


Masks are mandatory at all times while on the job site, even when working alone. COVID-19 is airborne and spreads through breathing from the mouth and nose, as well as other airway access. Removing or wearing a mask incorrectly has the potential to contaminate the air around you. Let’s not forget that people can be carriers without any symptoms.

We do not have control over who might enter the job site every second of the day, especially when working alone. Visitors and other unexpected persons could enter the jobsite and be infected, or you could be infected from their unprotected breath. Crowded jobsites pose an extra severe threat for exposure when mask protocols are not followed. 

All job sites have mandated requirements for mask posters on site, instructing how to wear a mask properly. The daily safety meetings are to happen at start of shift and for every shift during the job. This update should include mask-wearing information. 

Daily toolbox safety mask topics: 

  • State the reason for the meeting. 
  • Remind people that masks are mandatory at all times on the job site. 
  • Use the poster to instruct how to wear a mask properly.
  • Instruct to always cover the nose and how to do so when wearing a mask.
  • If people need some air, they are to go outside and take their mask off while following distancing protocols. 

 Please be diligent. We’re almost out of this, now is not the time to relax. Keep yourselves, your families and your co-workers safe. No one wants to be the mask police; unfortunately, it falls to us to keep a close eye out to protect ourselves and those around us. When you see someone without a mask, or not wearing a mask properly, it cannot wait until break time or one hour or even one minute, it must be corrected on the spot and must be reported in your daily log.

The sentiments I’ve expressed in the above email are heartfelt and, if I may say so, applicable to everyone no matter their working circumstances. We need to remind ourselves that COVID-19 mask-wearing is essential PPE, just as important as a fall protection harness or hard hat. 

Be safe. Be well. •

James Hong is an OHS chief for the construction industry.

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