Ontario Is Taking Steps to Remove Barriers for Female Workers on Construction Jobsites

Published on: May 2023 | What's Trending

On site, on demand. Cropped shot of a female construction worker standing outside on a building site with her colleagues.

While the construction workforce is still predominantly male, Ontario’s construction industry is becoming more gender inclusive.

According to Ontario’s Labour Minister, Monte McNaughton, construction apprenticeship registrations for women have increased by 28% in the last year.[1] Yet many construction jobsites do not provide washroom facilities suitable for women.

In March 2023, the Ontario government announced that it would implement changes to make construction jobsites more accessible for women by ensuring that they have access to at least one women’s-only washroom and by making washrooms private, clean and safe.  The amendments to the Construction Projects Regulation O. Reg. 213/91 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1 (the “OHSA”) were made under O. Reg. 61/23  and they will take effect on July 1, 2023.

The amendments include:

  • Where the minimum number of toilets required at a project is five or more, at least one facility at the project shall be for the use of female workers only, where reasonable in the circumstances.
  • If the facility is intended for use by males or females only, it shall have a sign indicating that.
  • If the facility is intended for use by female workers, there shall be a disposal receptacle for sanitary napkins.
  • Each toilet facility shall meet the following requirements:
  1. The facility shall have,
    • a toilet with an open-front toilet seat,
    • a toilet paper holder and an adequate supply of toilet paper, and
    • a self-closing door that can be locked from the inside.
  2. The facility shall
    • be adequately illuminated by natural or artificial light,
    • be adequately heated, if that is possible,
    • be adequately ventilated, and
    • afford the user privacy and protection from weather and falling objects.
  1. If the facility is a single-toilet facility, it shall be completely enclosed (this does not apply to a portable urinal).

These requirements will improve accessibility, strengthen retention, and hopefully reduce barriers to provide a more friendly and welcoming space for women entering the construction workforce. These changes fall within the provincial government’s broader efforts to improve workers’ rights and inclusive workspaces under the Working for Workers Act, 2022, S.O. 2022, c. 7 (Bill 88).

The Ministry of Labour conducted a “bathroom inspection blitz” at over 1,800 construction sites across the province and found 244 violations pertaining to the lack of available toilets for workers and cleanliness issues.[2]

Ontario’s construction industry is growing, with 1.5 million homes anticipated to be built in the next decade.[3] But there are not enough skilled workers to achieve this goal. It is projected that 72,000 construction workers will need to be hired to fulfill the province’s building targets.[4]

The Canadian Association of Women in Construction (CAWIC) welcomes the Ontario government’s efforts to ensure workers have access to safe, clean washrooms, and proper equipment.[5] Requiring jobsites to have adequate and clean washrooms that are accessible to women brings us one step closer to gender equity and inclusion in the construction industry.

Employers on construction jobsites need to be mindful that they can face penalties if they fail to follow these new rules. A corporation convicted of an offence under the OHSA may be subject to a fine of up to $1,500,000, and the directors and officers of that corporation may also be subject to a fine of up to $1,500,000 and/or up to 12 months of imprisonment. All other persons may be subject to a fine of up to $500,000 and/or up to 12 months of imprisonment.

[1] Amy Simon, “Ontario Plans to Require Women Only Bathrooms on Large Construction Sites” (March 15, 2023)
[2] Supra note 1 (Amy Simon).
[3] More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022, Bill 23; Government of Ontario News Release, “Ontario Requiring Cleaner Washrooms on Construction Sites” (2023)
[4] Ibid
[5] CAWIC News, “CAWIC Statement on the Ontario Government’s Announcement: Ontario Requiring Cleaner Washrooms on Construction Sites” (2023)