COVID-19 update from WorkSafeBCLisa Thibault
Expedited workplace closures – what employers can expect
On April 11, 2021, an order of the provincial health officer (PHO) delegated specific powers to WorkSafeBC prevention officers. The order provides WorkSafeBC prevention officers the ability to serve a 10-day closure order on an employer with COVID-19 transmission when directed so by a medical health officer. WorkSafeBC’s role is well defined and narrow in scope, with no role in deciding which workplaces will be served with a closure order. Questions regarding the closure order itself are referred to the Health Authority Medical Health Officer.
When WorkSafeBC prevention officers deliver a closure order to affected workplaces, they will also help the employer understand their need to review their COVID-19 safety plan and make any necessary changes during the closure period. WorkSafeBC will be available to provide guidance around reviewing and updating COVID-19 safety plans.
Then, once the workplace has re-opened, WorkSafeBC will conduct an inspection to review the employer’s COVID-19 safety plan and ensure the employer is effectively implementing measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.
Findings from COVID-19 inspections
Throughout the pandemic, WorkSafeBC has been engaging employers to ensure that protocols identified in their COVID-19 safety plan have been effectively reviewed, updated, and implemented, and that exposure to COVID-19 is being effectively managed in the workplace. This includes issuing an inspection report with orders in cases where improvements to COVID-19 safety plans and protocols are required.
They recently analyzed 1,600 COVID-19 orders to identify the controls most frequently identified as needing improvement. They include:
- Ensure physical distance of 2 metres is maintained between workers and others whenever possible, especially in shared spaces; consider changing the layout of workspaces to enable physical distancing in all work and break areas.
- Provide physical barriers such as Plexiglas if physical distancing between workers and customers cannot be maintained.
- Post signage that reminds workers of the controls in place, including occupancy limits, handwashing practices, health-check requirements, and entrance restrictions.
- Use physical queue controls, such as crowd-control cones or floor markers to regulate traffic and physical distancing.
Policies and Protocols
- Develop and post a COVID-19 safety plan that identifies and addresses the risks in all areas of the workplace.
- Ensure there are posted policies for employer and visitor daily health screening.
- Ensure health and safety information and training is provided in the required languages so it can be understood by everyone at the workplace.
Supervision and Monitoring
- Communicate safety programs and policies clearly to workers through information-sharing, instruction, training, and supervision to ensure the controls in place are being followed.
- Provide adequate hand-washing facilities on site for all workers.
- Place alcohol-based hand sanitizer at key areas of your workplace (near pay stations, in break rooms, etc.).
Personal Protective Equipment
- Make sure appropriate masks are available and being used properly for the work being carried out.
For more information about all aspects of a COVID-19 safety plan, please refer to the following resources:
- Reviewing and updating your COVID-19 safety plan: A guide for employers
- COVID-19 safety plan video series: Five steps to developing your COVID-19 safety plan
Reporting COVID-19 exposure claims
As a reminder, employers and workers should continue to report a workplace injury or disease during this time, including those involving a work-related exposure to COVID-19. Contracting COVID-19 in the workplace may be considered a work-related occupational disease, and affected staff members have the right to make a claim and could be eligible for health care and wage-loss benefits.
For information on when and how to report a COVID-19 illness to WorkSafeBC, please visit the Claims COVID-19 pages on worksafebc.com for information for both workers and employers.