Mask-Hysteria: Shortages of PPE Necessary for Skilled-Trades/Construction Work in Major Cities

Written By Neil McKenzie-Sutter, Posted on August 10, 2020

While there have been frequent news reports about shortages of essential PPE for doctors and nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic, in this breaking news report, The National Telegraph has reason to suspect Canada may be reaching a crisis shortage level of masks and breathing filters necessary for skilled trades professionals, construction workers and general contractors to work safely. 


Over the past week, I reached out and got in touch with numerous hardware stores across the country regarding their stocks of essential PPE for trades/construction workers/contractors to do their often dangerous jobs safely. 

For various reasons, the owners/workers in these hardware stores asked to remain anonymous, however every one shared a similar story: to one degree or another, there seems to be a shortage of these masks and filters. 

I genuinely feel like there is a shortage of masks and stuff like that,” said one candid Vancouver-based hardware store owner. 

Even on the subject of timelines for getting more product onto shelves is unclear or when it is clear, have very extended timelines. 

Anticipated time of delivery is 2021… The anticipated time of delivery into the warehouse is January 2021,” The same Vancouver store owner said, specifically discussing the arrival time of a type of fiberglasser N95 masks, which the store owner believes there is a demand for.

To be clear for those who aren’t aware, fiberglass is a dangerous material to work with if inhaled, and thus requires special mask-air filters. 

“There’s a supply shortage across the board,” said one, Calgary-based hardware store owner. 

On the subject of timelines for getting more construction worker/trade PPE masks into his store, this same Calgary store owner said: 

“Nope, nothing… I’ve been out since February.” 

The supply shortage for this type of PPE may not exist at the same level across the country. 

At least there was no present-day shortage for one Saskatoon-based hardware store owner we spoke with: 

“There are times there are shortages, there are times there is not,” talking about how his store, at least at around late-July, early-August, wasn’t experiencing a shortage of this type of PPE, although there was a crazy period during the height of the pandemic scare:

“March was the time when we sold everything,” the Saskatoon store owner mentioned. 

So not all areas of the country are facing the same levels of shortage, however the situation online is similar to that of many large cities-metro areas: nothing is for sale, nothing available

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This craze of masks and PPE necessary for skilled trades/construction work is almost certainly related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as it has already been acknowledged by media and government institutions that shortages of PPE for medical workers was also due in part to this ‘panic-buying.’ 

Unfortunately and obviously, this shortage of this type of PPE will almost certainly result in health problems for these construction workers/trades in future years. 

The issue of this shortage is being ignored totally by the mainstream media, although it must be said I consider myself to be in a Privileged position when it comes to how I stumbled upon this story. 


I (the author of this piece), while I work as a freelance journalist am also employed in the construction field. 

Frequently in my current work I come in contact with silica concrete dust, which is highly cancerous/toxic, and my current dust mask is falling apart. 

I need to purchase a new concrete dust mask ASAP before my old one totally rips apart, however at least in my area of the GTA, after visiting 8 different hardware stores to date, I cannot find the specific P100 rated mask/filters I need to do my job safely. 

This personal experience is what led me to work on this story, which I believe needs more public awareness and attention.

Neil McKenzie-Sutter

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