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Durham Health: Manufacturing sector accounting for most workplace outbreaks

Click to play video: 'Manufacturing sector facing most workplace outbreaks in Durham' Manufacturing sector facing most workplace outbreaks in Durham
WATCH: Durham health has recently started reporting information on workplace outbreaks. Currently, the data suggests manufacturing and industrial facilities have seen the most cases. – Feb 2, 2021

According to Durham’s health department, the manufacturing and industrial industry currently has the highest number of workplace COVID-19 outbreaks in the region.

Unifor, which represents nearly 6,000 employees and more than 50 employers in Durham says it has been an ongoing concern throughout the pandemic.

“There is continuously that anxiety to ensure that I’m safe and that my community is going to be safe,” said Sari Sairanen, the union’s director of national health and safety.

Sairanen adds it has been difficult for companies to juggle the productivity and safety of their employees.

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“You’ve had to have trial and error to ensure that the processes are meeting those public health and occupational health and safety measures that are needed.”

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The province has recommended a number of guidelines to minimize the spread in industrial facilities, including restricting the amount of workers on site, and staggering start times.

However, Concordia University economist Moshe Lander says even the slightest adjustments that could impact a company’s productivity could translate to alarming disruptions to the economy.

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“Most of these businesses are probably running as close to bare-bones operations, even at the best of times because that’s how they want to maximize their profits,” he said.

“When you start telling them, ‘can you start scaling back a little bit,’ those economies of scale start to disappear.”

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Lander adds there is little room for additional government intervention.

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“We’ve seen the health problems occur in this industry more than others,” he said.

“I think the government is caught between a rock and a hard place to decide what do they do about it.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Quebec threatens construction, manufacturing sectors with more restrictions

One step Lander says could be taken is regular testing, which the union says is not currently taking place.

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