Canadian Contractor


From commercial pilot to general contractor: (14) Keeping a clean worksite

Canadian Contractor Liability Professional risk

My house project is now 21 weeks old. During this time, I have had over a dozen different trades on the site, some for a few days, some for a few weeks, others for over a month. Almost without exception, they have put in five full days of work each week, some even six days, have kept honest hours when on the clock and met deadlines when on contract. The atmosphere on the site in terms of compatibility with other trades working simultaneously has been, at least in my view, very positive.

However, one thing that has not been consistent at all has been the attitude towards cleanup. Obviously some jobs are messier than others and create greater or lesser amounts of trash and remnants. But when I was growing up, I was always told to clean up my own mess when I was done. As my mother said to me, as maybe your mother said to you too: “What am I, your servant?”

So I have a question for the contractors reading this instalment: “Whose mess is this anyway?”

Should each trade clean up after itself? Or should the contractor be responsible?

Should each trade clean up after itself? Or should the contractor be responsible?

First, a little more background. As my own general contractor in the full sense of the term, including liability, I realise that the safety of my worksite is ultimately my responsibility. And a clean worksite is a safe worksite: I totally get that. I also understand that on some worksites, notably union sites, there is a clear division of work in terms of who does what without infringing on another. However, my site is not a union site. Almost every trade who works on this project is a sole entrepreneur or works for a small non-union operation. So when someone suggests that cleaning up is ‘not part of the job description’, I have a hard time buying the argument.

All the trades have created a mess. Some tidy up when they are finished, some don’t. When I say ‘finished’, I mean when their work is either fully completed or a specific stage of their work is completed. Some have taken an extra 20-30 minutes to pick up remnant scrap and doing a quick sweep of their area before the weekend, for example. Others do a little less, but make at least some kind of effort. A couple of notables make a significant mess and appear completely unapologetic about, leaving not only their scrap but empty coffee cups, milkshake containers and food wrappers on the floor or perched on stud blocking. One tradesman in particular makes a mess and when leaving at the end of the day gives me a wry smile and says: ‘Well, look at that that! Another John-Job!” Interestingly, there is no correlation in behavior between those on contract and those on the clock.

And so I spend an inordinate amount of time sweeping up, either on my own at the end of each day or with my wife on the weekend. I’m not a confrontational kind of supervisor and in fact am somewhat bonded to my chosen trades at this point since there is a severe shortage of the good ones at this time of year in my area. So I make no noise about it, but I do make note.

So here are my 2 questions for you professional contractors out there:
1. Should each trade or individual be expected to do their part in cleaning up their own mess?
2. And, if the answer is ‘Yes’, should I confront those who don’t and risk future animosity?

Any thoughts?




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