By Eric Dean
A review of last year’s work hours by area and market sector reveal a wide spectrum of differences in membership and financial gains and losses. The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on local unions varied greatly, with some having no job disruption and others having job cancellations and delays. The pandemic brought on a time uncertainty for members, contractors, builders and developers.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, the Iron Workers worked to establish benefits for the unemployed and underemployed. We researched and advocated for support for our employers to provide the necessary guidance and personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep our members safe on the job site. The coronavirus’s unknowns and newness led to provincial, state and federal governments offering practical and impractical solutions, some resulting in job-site productivity issues. In selected cases, ironworker jobs became more hazardous, navigating normal tasks while wearing the prescribed PPE while working aloft and using heavy equipment and tools. Transport, ingress and egress, change shacks, shanty access and break area protocols were modified to accommodate COVID-19 practices.
Unfortunately, I am saddened to report the death of some of our brother and sister ironworkers from the coronavirus. Our hearts go out to the families affected by this terrible disease, especially our active and retired members and their families who lost loved ones. We grieve with you.
Every year the Iron Workers restate and rededicate to the goal of the eradication of worksite injuries and fatalities from our industry. It is no different this year. In 2021, please commit to making safety your first and last thought—make the health and safety of yourself and your coworkers a priority. Protecting ourselves from COVID-19 is a new challenge, but one we are indeed capable of meeting.
A disturbing trend surfaced in the last year across the construction industry, regrettably involving iron-workers at a higher rate—a startling increase in deaths related to suicide. These deaths exceed the number of COVID-19 and worksite fatalities. As general presi-dent, I struggle with the report of each member fatality. I question each and every action. I want to know what more can be done to protect our members. If you have ever had the misfortune of witnessing a job-site fatal-ity, I feel your pain. As an ironworker, I witnessed the death of a tradesman from a different craft on a project. It still haunts me today, a lingering, constant memory of what-ifs. It fuels my devotion to keep ironworkers safe, to achieve zero fatalities and injuries