25 July 2018
The blue-collar team of The Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated (JCCBI) combs over kilometres of roads and sidewalks to keep them safe and clean for the thousands of people who use them every day. With their hard hats and orange safety vests, these workers are difficult to miss, yet most of us rarely notice these guardian angels of the road. Without them, our routes and highways would be dirty and covered with debris, to the point that they would be hazardous for vehicles and pedestrians. It’s hard to imagine how much work this team does in sometimes extreme conditions!
“We have two categories of work: seasonal and maintenance,” says Emmanuel Dattoli, our superintendent.
“A lot of work is subcontracted, like major snow removal or some repairs to structures. However, a lot of small-scale repair work is done by our small blue-collar team, such as removing snow from sidewalks or the entrance to JCCBI facilities. Most maintenance and repairs are done by JCCBI’s blue-collar workers.
“In the spring, clean-up work represents the bulk of what the blue-collar team does. This includes sweeping the roads and picking up trash, and of course, cleaning the structures. For example, every year, we have to repair guard rails that have been damaged from accidents during the winter.”
At the start of the year, the team creates a schedule with all the work that needs to be done. “We decide whether we’ll do it ourselves or whether it’s better to have a subcontractor do it. Then, we plan our clean-up and maintenance in coordination with the different work sites to minimize lane hindrances as much as possible,” says Emmanuel.
Then they have to perform routine maintenance. Whether it’s -25 °C or 35 °C outside, the blue-collar team works on a 2-circuit rotation to pick up garbage, empty trash cans, clean up property and green space, and wash graffiti off of our structures, depending on the season.
Our blue-collar team has to deal with many unexpected things, all while working around the traffic.
“We have a window of a few hours in the day between the morning and afternoon peak hours. Sometimes a simple vehicle breakdown can extend the rush hour. We may have to delay some work, or work with the traffic going by when we simply can’t put things off,” says Emmanuel.
These unplanned tasks might include sweeping broken glass from the multipurpose path, replacing stolen signage, cleaning the road after an accident, or picking up objects that have fallen off vehicles and onto the lanes. “We collect a lot of hubcaps and clothing, but sometimes we find bigger items. We’ve picked up boxes full of eyeglasses, a captain’s chair, a mattress, and even one of those big rolling patio swings like the ones you see outside ice cream shops!”
Of course, as with any construction work, equipment wear and breakdowns are inevitable. The team also has to quickly replace burnt-out traffic lights or shaky guard rails and fix growing pot holes.
Lastly, the weather is always part of the equation. Although our blue-collar workers aren’t afraid of a little rain, the team may have to deal with extreme weather conditions that can impact the quality of work or put their safety at risk. “That’s why we won’t do paving work when it rains and we don’t use boom lifts when the wind is too strong,” says Emmanuel.
The conditions for our blue-collar team can be difficult, but their work is important. Yet, some users aren’t shy about sharing their displeasure when our workers are in their way. “Sometimes motorists drive very close while others don’t respect the traffic lights. After passing a JCCBI team, a driver may merge into the closed lane, not thinking that there might be another team further ahead doing more work. It’s really important to follow the signs. Sometimes users insult employees who are picking up dangerous debris on the road or multipurpose path, even though the clean-up work is for their safety,” explains Emmanuel.
The next time you see one of our employees, be courteous and thank them! After all, they’re here for you!