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The 165 Ontario Story

Tenant Safety Issues

Last Update: 2024-02-14

If anyone had told me when I first got involved in these issues that I would one day write about health and safety for an apartment building, I would probably have laughed at them... But, here we are.

High levels of dust

Most contractors use dry cutting techniques with both jackhammers and handheld grinders. Not only is this the noise from hell, it creates enormous clouds of dust. In all the years I've endured these renovations, I've never seen such large or such dense clouds of dust as I'm seeing in this latest round.

As a result, everything in and around this building has been covered in a layer of fine Silica Dust that comes from cutting and grinding concrete and ceramics. It can be quite dangerous after prolonged exposure and can cause a respiratory condition known as Silicosis.

I can dust my apartment twice a day and in a couple of hours it will look like I neglected it for weeks. But, we are also breathing air that is laden with this stuff. It can be seen in the beam of a flashlight, floating in the air like a snow storm.

I've also heard reports from other tenants about blocked sinuses, itching and burning eyes, coughing up large Phlegm balls and shortness of breath, all of which apprear to be dust related problems.

Tenants are well advised to keep their doors and windows closed when the workers are near their units and if the dust is visible in the air, putting on a face covering (mask) is a good idea.

Bone jarring noise

The noise issue is only slightly less severe. All power tools are noisy and irritating but the jackhammers, especially, get loud enough to cause ringing in the ears and could lead to bouts of Tinnitis and/or permanent Hearing Loss with prolonged exposure.

Having the jackhammers and grinders right on your balcony or right outside your door is quite the experience. Sound pressure levels can reach 90db for hours at a time. There's no way to hear anything else with this going on; telephones are useless, music is drowned out and conversation is impossible.

I often find that at the end of a day-long session it can take 2 or 3 hours for the after-ring in my ears to settle down enough that I can enjoy music or watch a movie. Fortunately, after having a checkup, I still have better than average hearing but others may not be so lucky.

Your best bet in this case is to wear ear plugs. These are commonly available in drug and department stores. Get the soft ones with at least 20db of effect (usually orange in colour) if at all possible.

Falling debris

Having a construction crew working above doorways and lawns can be quite dangerous. As they cut out bricks from the walls, or break away chunks of concrete, there is the risk that it will fall and hit a passer-by.

Although there have been no injuries that I know of, I've heard stories of a couple of close calls. Give these workers a very wide berth.

Loss of privacy

All of this is highly intrusive. Along with the noise and dust there's the matter of things being off-limits while they work. Also CLV's workers are in our apartments and at our doors, even at our windows, more often than any landlord before them. It seems that our "annual inspections" are now on a 6 month cycle. If they aren't inspecting, they're changing our locks, replacing smoke alarms or staining our doorsills. Then there's the matter of workers on our balconies, looking in windows. This may seem a minor issue beside the noise and dust, but privacy does matter.

Fixing the problem

When I investigated what could be done to protect tenants, particularly in the areas of noise and dust, I was rapidly told by everyone I approached that as a tenant, I didn't qualify for any of the workplace protections that are mandatory for the workers.

This is ludicrous, we are not coming to work at 8:00am and leaving at 5:00pm. We live in the construction zone..

The workplace safety rules and guidelines are in desperate need of amendment, to include tenants of buildings that are under renovation. This should include provision of dust filters, masks, hearing protection and hard hats.