Joint Health and Safety Committees

Physical distancing is a primary means of preventing the spread of COVID-19 and is the underlying rationale for public health orders. Where possible, workers should maintain a distance of two metres apart from each other.

Physical distancing may not be possible for some training where physical contact is an integral part of the training, for example self-defense or use of force training. An employer should review their existing training material, in consultation with the Joint Health and Safety Committee if they have one. They should conduct a risk assessment to identify potential risks during specific training exercises and come up with measures to mitigate the potential for transmission during the training.

Some examples of strategies to eliminate or minimize the risk may include:

  • Handwashing before and after training;
  • Minimizing physical contact as much as possible without compromising learning;
  • Exercise physical distancing during the training;
  • Limiting class sizes;
  • Keeping partner exercises to the same pairs during the training;
  • Implementing self-assessment screening prior to the training;
  • Use of PPE like coveralls, gloves, and non-medical masks during physical contact exercises;
  • Conducting training outdoors whenever possible;
  • No sharing of equipment during the training;
  • The training area is cleaned before and after training

The employer may wish to consult the WorkSafeBC publication Preventing exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace: A guide for employers for guidance.

The employer should document the risk assessment to show their risk assessment process and the resulting control measures to be implemented.

If possible, use Teams, Zoom, Skype, or another tool to connect the team remotely where possible to avoid close contact. These tools allow recording, simplifying minute-taking, and communication with the rest of the staff. These meetings are especially important in this environment to ensure that employers and employees are working collaboratively to reduce anxiety and implement effective controls. If a meeting has to be held onsite, look for a meeting space that allows effective distancing. Any employee who is feeling unwell should not be in the room, or in the workplace at all.

Section 37(2) (previously 131(2)) of the Act requires a joint committee to meet at least once a month.

A JHSC must develop its own Rules of Procedures, which should include rules on how and when meetings will be held.

Historically, most JHSC meetings were held in person, but the Act does not prevent teleconference or virtual meetings. A joint committee could temporarily adopt new procedures for virtual or telephone meetings for the duration of the pandemic.

In-person JHSC meetings may continue for a small number of people in a space large enough to allow safe physical distances.

Each workplace is different, and the employer and workers are in the best positions to find something that will be effective, given the unique nature of their work, workforce, and workplace.