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‘Can’t use your fingers’: Employee at Pearson airport testing site says freezing conditions unacceptable

Click to play video: 'Staff at Pearson airport COVID testing site say working conditions unacceptable' Staff at Pearson airport COVID testing site say working conditions unacceptable
WATCH: Staff at Pearson airport COVID testing site say working conditions unacceptable – Jan 11, 2022

Employees are working in a pre-departure COVID-19 testing site at Pearson airport with freezing conditions that are unacceptable, says a staff member.

Speaking with Global News on the condition of anonymity, the staffer said the partially-outdoor drive-thru testing site is freezing.

“It’s frustrating and painful actually. You’re standing outside swabbing passengers and sometimes they have questions and you don’t want to rush them because this is what they paid for. It’s not their fault we are in a drive-thru,” the staff member said.

“Sometimes they have questions and you’re out there talking to them and the wind is blowing and it’s painful and uncomfortable. It’s overwhelming, really.”

Read more: New COVID-19 testing rules could cause ‘chaos’ at Canadian airports: industry groups

The site on Viscount Road is a paid testing site that offers drive-thru testing and has a clinic on the third floor of the parking garage.

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Employees recognized there would be issues with the drive-thru testing centre in the fall months, said the staffer.

“This was a foreseen issue.” With a drive-thru component at the testing centre, staff knew they would have to worry about what they were going to do when the cold weather started.

“We were assured that they would have measures in place and heating pods and whatnot. In October, when the weather started to cool down was when we noticed none of these things were happening.”

Read more: Toronto-area startup Switch Health accused of fumbling Canada’s COVID-19 border testing

The staff member said heating pods have not been installed, and heaters were brought but there were incidents of employees getting burned.

“We were originally provided with heaters but the heaters were extremely hot and the elements were exposed and nurses were burning themselves on the heaters so they were taken away,” the staff member said, adding concerns have been repeatedly brought to management.

The testing centre is operated by Switch Health. In a statement, Jordan Paquet, the vice-president of public affairs said health and safety of staff and clients are are top priority.

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Premiers press Trudeau on idea of vaccine mandates, COVID-19 pill approval – Jan 10, 2022

“We follow the protocols and requirements for the Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety and the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act for working in cold temperatures and have ensured our staff are trained on these measures, including how to dress in the winter and allowing for proper warm up breaks,” reads the statement.

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“We have also taken additional steps and provided employees with winter jackets and pocket warmers, and special, winterized outdoor pods were ordered in anticipation of changing weather and will be arriving shortly.”

The staff member said employees hope changes will be made so they can do their job better.

“You just feel like you can’t use your fingers. You keep dropping things, dropping samples.… You can’t do your job and you’re completely inefficient that way,” the employee said.

“I would like to see the staff actually get the proper tools to do our job.”

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