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Navigating the 2nd Wave of the Pandemic

Originally Broadcast on December 31, 1969

Strengthen your COVID-19 safety plan to protect your workers and your business through the second wave 

The rise in COVID-19 cases and new provincial regulations require employers to assess their pandemic safety plans with fresh eyes. Do you know how to maintain safe operations that protect your employees, your customers, and your business? Learn what’s new—and what’s changed—and how to review your safety plan to keep your workplace safe from COVID-19.


Questions Asked during this Webinar

1. What are acceptable options for confirming health screening? Does it have to be a verbal confirmation? We have an employee finger scan when workers enter after a thermal temp check Can we use the finger scan as confirmation with signage?

Confirmation of health checks is needed, as per WorkSafeBC guidance. See below:

Employers must ensure that every worker performs a daily health check before entering the workplace. Health checks are mandatory self-assessments conducted by workers and include confirming with their employer, in a written or verbal format, that they have reviewed the complete list of entry requirements (included on this entry check poster) and that none of the prohibited criteria apply to them.

Employers can use a number of methods to confirm that this self-assessment has taken place. Some examples include:

  • A written health check declaration completed by workers before entry.
  • An online health check form completed by workers before entry.
  • A verbal check-in, done either in person, virtually, or by phone with every worker, confirming that the worker has completed their daily health check.
  • Other forms of a supervised daily health check process based on the above.

Source: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/about-us/covid-19-updates/health-and-safety/health-checks

1 attached resource.

2. Should we be closing down staff kitchens?

This depends on your risk assessment. Controls need to be factored in to make this determination – frequency of cleaning, protocols in place (are masks being worn, are occupancy limits being followed, etc.).

1 attached resource.

3. Under the PHO are non-medical / cloth masks safe to use?

Yes they are safe to use.  

A mask or face covering can be homemade or purchased, and should

  • be made of at least 3 layers 
  • 2 layers should be tightly woven material fabric, such as cotton or linen 
    the third (middle) layer should be a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric 
  • be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose, mouth and chin without gaping 
  • allow for easy breathing 
  • fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops 
  • be comfortable and not require frequent adjustments 
  • be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty 
  • maintain its shape after washing and drying 

Source: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks/about-non-medical-masks-face-coverings.html#a2  

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4. Will the fast test become available at the borders, as in Calgary, Alberta?

Testing is currently available in an optional pilot program at YVR for WestJet domestic flights. Asymptomatic private testing is also available for travel and work purposes by appointment in-terminal and on Sea Island. Details here.

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5. For workplace tasks that require workers to work within 6 feet where a barrier cannot be installed, is a face shield/mask combo a significant control in reducing the risk of exposure as a barrier would?

It depends on your risk assessment. We cannot rely only on one type of control, i.e. Masks. Factoring in the hierarchy of controls, a combination of controls are encouraged. We all know masks are not 100% effective, thus having other controls such as occupancy limits, hygiene protocols, in combination of masks can create a bigger impact in reducing the risk of transmission. Carry out a risk assessment for this scenario, and determine what other controls are warranted, and consider what is the acceptable risk to your organization.

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6. We have an ISO level 8 facility air exchange in certain rooms of once an hour. Does high-volume air exchange affect some of the precautions as far as distancing and additional PPE? Are there some specifications on air exchange?

Source: https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/ipac/2020/09/covid-19-hvac-systems-in-buildings.pdf?la=en  

In general, while there is plausibility of COVID-19 transmission by inhaled virus in air particularly in crowded, poorly ventilated settings, there is limited epidemiological evidence that this occurs. Specifically, the overall scientific evidence does not indicate that transmission of COVID-19 occurs via HVAC systems at this time. Although viral RNA has been detected in air and HVAC systems, the viability of virus in or infection from air circulated through HVAC systems has not been demonstrated. 

Enhancing outdoor air ventilation and good maintenance of HVAC systems will complement other public health measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission, e.g., screening, self-isolation when sick, physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory source control, environmental cleaning and disinfection 

Good ventilation is important in indoor environments for the general health and comfort of occupants. Optimization of HVAC systems can be done on the basis of best practices for ventilation, as COVID-19 transmission from HVAC systems has not been observed. In general, avoiding stagnant air conditions and ventilating indoor environments with fresh outdoor air, whether by increasing the outdoor air ratio of the HVAC system or by opening windows, will dilute exhaled air from the occupants including any infectious particles. Thus, most guidance encourage ventilation with outdoor air, avoiding recirculation as far as practically possible and ensuring clean filters  

Source: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/resources/about-us/covid-19/general-ventilation-and-air-circulation-covid-19-faq?lang=en  

It is a requirement for employers to ensure that heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are designed, operated, and maintained as per standards and specifications for ongoing comfort for workers (Part 4 of the OHS Regulation).  

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7. What is the policy for out of town training? Are we allowed to have peoples from out of town/province come to workplace to train or not allowed?

This depends on your risk assessment and internal policies in terms of having visitors on site. In regards to restrictions — see below:  

Coming from outside of B.C. 

At this time, people travelling to B.C. from another province or territory within Canada should only come for essential reasons. If you do travel, you are expected to follow the same travel guidelines as everyone else in B.C. 

 Flights to and from B.C. 

The order does not restrict flights entering and leaving B.C. 

Source: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support/restrictions#travel-precautions  

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8. Looking at the government and WorkSafeBC wording on mask policies. The only area that has a mandatory mask policy it seems are public areas and public accessed workplaces? A closed-door manufacturer that does not have public access would they not be excluded from the mandate?

That is incorrect. An excerpt from the Provincial Government website: 

Masks are strongly recommended in common areas in workplaces and apartment buildings like elevators, hallways and washrooms. Employees may not need to wear a mask in their offices or cubicle if there is a physical barrier like plexiglass in place. Individual workplaces may have further mask requirements that you should follow. 

It is strongly recommended that masks be worn in the following areas: 

Shared indoor workplace spaces, including: 

  • Elevators 
  • Kitchens 
  • Hallways 
  • Break rooms 

Source: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support/restrictions#masks 

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9. Are nitrile gloves a benefit to reduce transmission when handling or transferring products between workers?

Not necessarily – it depends on the task. Our bare hands equally protect us from COVID-19 as would gloves. If only bare hands are used, you need to follow the hand hygiene protocols (hand sanitizer, frequent hand washing etc.). With gloves, the same might apply. In addition, workers should be trained on correct donning and doffing of the gloves as well. Carry out a risk assessment to see whether or not gloves are warranted in your workplace.  

If would like to discuss with an advisor, please contact the Alliance for additional guidance.  

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10. With WorkSafeBC stepping up inspections, do they have jurisdiction at a Federally regulated workplace?

Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (Regulation) contains legal requirements that must be met by all workplaces under the inspectional jurisdiction of WorkSafeBC. Generally, WorkSafeBC does not get involved with federally regulated workplaces, as it is out of their jurisdiction. 

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11. It is my understanding that masks are mandated for the public but not for all workplaces yet. Is this true? Particularly in an outdoor setting.

Masks are strongly recommended in common areas in workplaces and apartment buildings like elevators, hallways and washrooms. Employees may not need to wear a mask in their offices or cubicle if there is a physical barrier like plexiglass in place. Individual workplaces may have further mask requirements that you should follow. 

It is strongly recommended that masks be worn in the following areas: 

Shared indoor workplace spaces, including: 

  • Elevators 
  • Kitchens 
  • Hallways 
  • Break rooms 

Source: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support/restrictions#masks  

1 attached resource.

12. I heard that a beard breaks the seal in the face mask barrier. What are our obligations to educate workers on this issue and have you heard about cases that beards are an issue?

Beards do break the seal, especially for those masks which require a tighter seal all around the face seal. However, this is more so applicable to those scenarios when a tight seal around the face seal is required. For example, protection against welding fumes, certain chemicals, in health care settings etc. 

In context of COVID-19, when using surgical masks and cloth masks (which are quite common), the intent is to cover the nose and mouth. These are not designed as N95’s (which are more standardized). It some cases, even when wearing surgical or cloth masks, with no beard, the mask is still ill-ftting, with gaps near the nose or the sides of your cheeks.  It can be argued that with no beard, you can possibly achieve a better seal. Regardless, in context of the requirements in response to COVID-19, there is no mandate for the requirement of having no facial hair when wearing a facial mask/covering.  

In terms of obligations, it’s a good idea to create awareness that masks are not 100% effective, and have their limitations. Regardless of having a beard or not, the mask mandate is still applicable to them, unless exempt.  

Please reach out to the Alliance to be set-up with an advisor, if you would like further clarity on this question.  

 

 

 

 

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13. What about if some workers are not willing to wear masks?

There are exemptions to be wearing masks. People who cannot wear a mask or who cannot put on or remove a mask on their own are exempt. Some people cannot wear a mask for psychological, behavioural, or health conditions. Be respectful of people who can't wear a mask.   

Alternative options may potentially be considered, however this is based on your risk assessment, as well as the above criteria.   

Source: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/prevention-risks/masks  

1 attached resource.

14. Is there an app or digital option available for the daily questionnaire?

No digital or app out yet, which is recommended or promoted by public health. However, there are some apps out in the market.

If you are an organization with access to Microsoft Forms, a digital version of health questionnaires can potentially be set-up. Contact the Alliance to be set up with an advisor to walk you through these steps, if your interested.  

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15. Is there a place for face shield or the shields that we have seen in restaurants which fit on the chin and come up as a shield?

Face shields are not a replacement for a face mask.  

Source: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks/about-non-medical-masks-face-coverings.html#a8 

Face shields when masks are not an option 

  • When communicating using lip-reading, when visual facial cues are essential, or when people may be unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition, a face shield may be an alternative to no mask.  
  • Some face shields may provide better protection than others. When needed, use face shields that wrap around your face and extend below the chin as well as hooded face shields. 
  • Non-medical clear masks that cover the nose and mouth are another option when visual communication is necessary. These options have not been widely assessed for their effectiveness.  

Source: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/prevention-risks/masks  

1 attached resource.

16. Do "high traffic" workers such as managers, first aid, safety, supervisors - need to consider n95/face shields and glasses?

Carry out a risk assessment to see whether or not a higher level of protection is required for these individuals. Factor in the frequency of contact between individuals, surfaces, etc., as well as the type of work. You may also factor in other controls in place (hygiene procedures, physical distancing, etc.), to justify whether or not a higher level of protection is needed. 

Face shields can be used in the workplace in combination with face masks to provide added protection. They cannot be used to replace face masks or other protective measures. 

Source

1 attached resource.

17. In a workstation or work cell with 5 operators working face to face, do we still need plastic barriers at the middle even if mask is already mandated?

We cannot rely only one type of control, i.e. Masks. Factoring in the hierarchy of controls, a combination of controls are encouraged. We all know masks are not 100% effective, thus having other controls such as barriers, hygiene protocols, in combination of masks can create a bigger impact in reducing the risk of transmission. Carry out a risk assessment for this scenario, and determine what other controls are warranted.

1 attached resource.

18. Is a face shield good enough instead of using a face mask?

No, face shields are not a replacement for a face mask.  

Face shields may be used when masks are not an option:

  • When communicating using lip-reading, when visual facial cues are essential, or when people may be unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition, a face shield may be an alternative to no mask.  
  • Some face shields may provide better protection than others. When needed, use face shields that wrap around your face and extend below the chin as well as hooded face shields. 
  • Non-medical clear masks that cover the nose and mouth are another option when visual communication is necessary. These options have not been widely assessed for their effectiveness.  

Source: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/prevention-risks/masks  
Source: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks/about-non-medical-masks-face-coverings.html#a8   

More information:

1 attached resource.

19. Employee daily self-screening in BC, are companies required to keep on file each day as proof?

Confirmation of health checks are needed, as per WorkSafeBC guidance. See below: 

Employers must ensure that every worker performs a daily health check before entering the workplace. Health checks are mandatory self-assessments conducted by workers and includes confirming with their employer, in written or verbal format, that they have reviewed the complete list of entry requirements (included on this entry check poster) and that none of the prohibited criteria apply to them. 

Employers can use a number of methods to confirm that this self-assessment has taken place. Some examples include: 

  • A written health check declaration completed by workers before entry. 
  • An online health check form completed by workers before entry. 
  • A verbal check in, done either in person, virtually, or by phone with every worker, confirming that the worker has completed their daily health check. 
  • Other forms of a supervised daily health check process based on the above. 

Source

1 attached resource.

20. Regarding the guidance on isolation, and isolating for 14 days — does this mean that when a case is positive, our business closes for 14 days?

You would need to follow the direction of public health, and take their advice on whether a 2 week business shutdown is warranted. There is no clear answer, as it would be on a case by case determination, factoring in with whom that positive case worker interacted with in your business. 

1 attached resource.

21. What is considered a close contact?

A high-risk close contact can be defined as a person who: 

  • Provided direct care for the case, including healthcare workers, family members or other caregivers, or who had other similar close physical contact (e.g., intimate partner) without consistent and appropriate use of personal protective equipment, OR
  • Lived with or otherwise had close face to face contact (within 2 metres) with a probable or confirmed case for more than 15 minutes (may be cumulative, i.e., multiple interactions) up to 48 hours prior to symptom onset, OR
  • Had direct contact with infectious body fluids of a probable or confirmed case (e.g., was coughed or sneezed on) while not wearing recommended PPE, OR
  • Has been identified by the local MHO as a possible contact. 

Source

1 attached resource.

22. What defines a true false positive COVID-19 test?

This would be falsely picking up a signal that matches Sars-CoV-2 genetic material. This is extremely rare.

1 attached resource.

23. Regarding “late positive” test results, what is the rate of late positive (meaning picking up past COVID-19 genetic material? Are all people who test positive infected with COVID-19? Does a positive test mean the person is sick?

Almost all people who test positive will have been infected with Covid-19, either currently or within the recent past. The most likely scenario of a positive test is a current Covid-19 infection. A positive test does not mean someone is currently experiencing symptoms. Some people can be asymptomatic during their Covid-19 infection. Each person who tests positive is assessed by Public Health to make an individual determination. The rate of late positives varies and is dependent on testing patterns.

1 attached resource.

24. How reassuring is it for travellers if all passengers are tested at the airport before boarding?

This can’t be relied upon to protect travelers. Passengers incubating virus can test negative but become infectious in short time.

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25. We heard that Fraser Health will inspect food processor on a monthly basis. Is this decision based on specific activities carried on in food processing that are exposing employees more than in other locations? IS it to preserve essential food processing? Overall, what is the reason?

Fraser Health has worked with WorkSafeBC to enhance proactive inspections for select industries. This is because these industries have been demonstrated to have high rates of transmission and/or large outbreaks and because these industries are critically important; aggressive control measures required once transmission occurs can be very costly for all parties.

1 attached resource.

26. If my employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, after isolating, will they receive anything in writing from public health that I can review that verifies they are COVID-free?

At this time, health authorities do not have the capacity to provide confirmation in writing that an employee is COVID-19-free.

1 attached resource.

27. Can an employer request that a release from isolation letter be obtained from Fraser Health by the worker?

Unfortunately, Fraser Health does not have capacity to provide release from isolation letters.

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28. Why is there a 14-day isolation period instead of 10 days like other countries?

The isolation requirement for active cases is 10 days—the length of time someone with COVID-19 typically remains infectious. Contacts are required to isolate for 14 days. This longer isolation is required because of the length of the incubation period for COVID-19 (the length of time someone may become infected after exposure).

A few jurisdictions have chosen a shorter isolation period for contacts to balance hardship of isolation against the risk of transmission, but all recognize that there will be increased transmission with a shorter isolation period.

1 attached resource.

29. At what stage of COVID-19 infection is the patient most infectious? Is it throughout or is there a specific stage after getting exposed?

They are most infectious in the 2 days prior to symptom onset and in the few days following symptom onset. However people can certainly and do transmit frequently up to 10 days post symptom onset (longer for some individuals with specific health conditions).

1 attached resource.

30. Are we able to ask for employee travel plans and events they will be attending during the holiday season without violating their right to privacy?

See the video answer to this question.

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31. What is the difference between a cluster and an outbreak?

See the video answer to this question.

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32. What is the current false positive rate associated with the testing that is being used to determine case counts in Fraser Health and in the rest of BC and Canada?

See the video answer to this question.

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33. If we are seeing increased outbreaks and the introduction of COVID-19 in schools — do we have a plan on tightening the protocols specifically for schools? If so, how can we effectively encourage students to follow protocols - especially the younger ones?

See the video answer to this question.

1 attached resource.

34. What are your suggestions when it comes to employees carpooling?

See the video answer to this question.

1 attached resource.

35. Our workers are required to wear safety glasses. When wearing a mask, the glasses fog up and create hazards with vision. We've implemented mandatory face shields that cover the face, but does this comply with the PHO? We've tried all the anti-fog treatments, but nothing seems to prevent fogging the safety glasses.

See the video answer to this question.

1 attached resource.
In this webinar, learn:
The impact of the new public health orders on businesses 
What to do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19 
How to revise and strengthen your safety plan to keep the virus out 
New mask requirements for BC and mask policies for the workplace 
Conducting health employee health checks 

Get to know your Presenters

  • Image Dr. Emily Newhouse
    Image

    Presenter

    Dr. Emily Newhouse

    Medical Health Offier, Fraser Health

    Dr. Newhouse provides local communicable disease and outbreak management; during the Covid-19 pandemic, her focus is on the management of transmission in community sites and workplaces. She is also a clinical faculty member at the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia.


  • Image Jasmine Kalsi
    Image

    Presenter

    Jasmine Kalsi


    Msc, OEH
    Occupational Hygienist, Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC

    Jasmine Kalsi is a Safety Advisor specializing in Occupational Hygiene at the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC. For more than two years with the Alliance, Jasmine has assisted clients with concerns about air quality, noise exposures, and exposure control plans. Her experiences include assessing risks and exposure to crystalline silica, welding fumes, and volatile organic compounds and working with clients on toxic process gasses, such as ammonia.  

    Jasmine holds a Master of Science in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene degree from the University of British Columbia and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Simon Fraser University. 


  • Image Lisa McGuire

    Lisa McGuire


    CRSP, ICD.D
    CEO, Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC

    Lisa is the founder and CEO of the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC, the not-for-profit health and safety association that supports food processors and manufacturers across the province. Under Lisa’s leadership, the organization has more than doubled membership.

    Lisa also founded the BC Safety Charter (now an independent society, The Executive Health & Safety Council of BC) which engages senior executives to create a culture of safety and well-being to make our province the safest place to live and work in Canada. She is also currently leading the development of a National Health & Safety Audit Standard and ongoing collaboration to establish a national Health & Safety Professional certification program for manufacturing. Her background includes an Agricultural Science education through the University of Saskatchewan and UBC. Lisa is also a Canadian Registered Safety Professional (CRSP) and a certified Director (ICD.D) through the Institute of Corporate Directors-Rotman, Directors Education Program.