Physical Distancing

Find answer to you questions about implementing physical distancing in your plant or facility.

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 it is not practicable to eliminate work that causes workers to be within two metres of each other, the encroachment on physical distancing should be kept as brief as possible, through planning the work task and providing instructions to workers.

Utilize your joint health and safety committee or worker representative to identify risks and effective controls for your workplace.

The joint health and safety committee plays an important role in your occupational health and safety program, giving workers and employers a way to work together to identify and find solutions to workplace health and safety issues. The joint committee has the following specific duties and functions:

Identify situations that may be unhealthy or unsafe for workers, and advise on effective systems for responding to those situations

  • Consider, and promptly deal with complaints relating to the health and safety of workers
  • Consult with workers and the employer on issues related to occupational health and safety, and the occupational environment
  • Make recommendations to the employer and the workers for the improvement of the occupational health and safety, and the occupational environment of workers
  • Make recommendations to the employer on educational programs promoting the health and safety of workers and compliance with Part 3 of the Workers Compensation Act and the regulations, and to monitor their effectiveness
  • Advise the employer on programs and policies required under the regulations for the workplace, and to monitor their effectiveness
  • Advise the employer on proposed changes to the workplace, including significant proposed changes to equipment and machinery, or the work processes that may affect the health or safety of workers
  • Ensure that accident investigations and regular inspections are carried out as required
  • Participate in inspections, investigations, and inquiries as provided in Part 3 of the Workers Compensation Act and Section 3 of the Regulation

In workplaces where a worker health and safety representative is required, the representative has the same duties and functions as a joint committee, to the extent practicable.

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.

As of March 31, 2020, Public Health clarified that the PHO's Mass Gathering order refers to events where more than 50 people are in close contact. It does not apply to a worksite unless a mass gathering is being held onsite. 

Employers should consider the work area, configuration, work processes and flow, and movement of workers in determining whether they have exceeded 50 workers in a "gathering". Large workplaces, including warehouses, might have enough space to accommodate this.

Workplaces can implement measures to ensure that the appropriate number of people are in each area of a worksite:

  • Reduce in-person meetings
  • Post occupancy limits
  • Manage numbers on elevators
  • Limit the number of workers at one time on break locations
  • Maintain an up-to-date list of employees at the workplace

Examples of acceptable physical distancing that does not constitute a gathering include:

  • Workers dispersed across different floors or in different areas on a manufacturing plant separated by walls or other barriers (e.g. plexiglass divider).
  • Workers in a single area who are able to maintain two metres of separation would not be considered part of a gathering.
  • Safety meetings, general meetings, and toolbox talks held in smaller groups in larger areas

In order to comply with health protocols, review your walkways to ensure that your employees have enough space to maintain their distance while walking between workstations, break rooms, and other commons areas. This might require one-way direction flow for entrances and exits, for example.

For those businesses that are permitted to remain open, the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) has required the physical distancing of two metres where possible between workers.

Employers may need to assess those parts of a production area where this is a challenge and may need to modify their operations accordingly (i.e., temporarily shutting down areas of non-critical operations where physical distancing is not possible).

Employers are expected to implement all reasonable steps to ensure physical distancing practices are implemented in their workplace in accordance with the PHO’s direction.


Except where work is subject to specific regulatory requirements around personal protective equipment (PPE), such as are in place for exposure to silica, mould, etc., WorkSafeBC is not advising employers in general at this time about specific use of PPE.

PPE should be selected and used as set out in OHSR s. 8.3, and in consultation with the joint health and safety committee at your workplace. To discuss your specific situation with a safety advisor, please (contact the Alliance by email)[mailto:[email protected]] or call 1-604-795-9595.

At this time, it is unlikely that WorkSafeBC would consider exposure to COVID-19 in a manufacturing setting to be a high-risk violation that could result in a stop-work order, and they have stated that they will not issue stop-work orders against essential services. It is possible, however, that other regulators could. For example, Black Press reported on March 29, 2020 that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency temporarily halted production at a Calgary beef processing plant after a worker tested positive for the virus until the plant could demonstrate that it had a plan in place to ensure the safety of both employees and inspectors.

The regulators recognize that achieving 2m physical distancing may not be possible in some facilities. To mitigate the risk, refer to {Canada's public health guidelines for risk-informed decision-making during the COVID-19 pandemic)[].