WorkSafe BC releases guide on coronavirus protection in the workplace

Mar 31 2020, 1:52 pm

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many businesses have decided to adopt work-from-home policies in an effort to maintain proper physical distancing and minimize the risk of spreading or catching the virus.

However, being able to work from home is not feasible for every type of business, and some operations require workers to physically be on-site.

In recognition of this, WorkSafe BC has released a set of guidelines advising people in these positions on how to better guard against the risk of spread or contraction.

“Orders from the provincial health officer (PHO) and guidance to employers and businesses provided by the BC Centre of Disease Control represent the minimum standard that employers must meet, to comply with obligations to ensure worker health and safety. To address health and safety concerns in the workplace raised by COVID-19,” the guide says.

But how can workplaces do this, exactly? WorkSafe BC offers a series of tips and advice:

  • Information:
    • How are you telling your workers about COVID-19 (i.e., exposure to COVID-19 in your workplace)?
    • Do you have a system in place where workers (including joint health and safety committee representatives and worker representatives) can inform you of concerns relating to being exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace? Find out if there are any specific tasks that concern them (e.g., tasks that involve interacting with others).
  • Identifying exposure hazards and developing measures to control exposure:
    • What are you doing to prevent your workers from being exposed to COVID-19?
    • Have you done a walk-through of your workplace to identify specific conditions or tasks that may increase the risk of exposure of your workers to COVID-19?
    • Have you asked your workers (including your joint committee or worker representative) where potential exposures may occur and how they think exposures can be controlled?
    • Have you developed controls that will eliminate or minimize the risk of exposure? What are they? Are they in place? How are they working?
  • Controlling the number of people on site:
    • How are you controlling the number of workers and other people at your workplace?
    • Can you stagger shifts to reduce the numbers present at one time?
    • Are you ensuring there is adequate cleaning between shifts?
    •  Can you prioritize the work that needs to be done at the workplace to help your business operate as close to normal under the circumstances? This will require a determination of core work and where it can safely and productively be performed.
  • Different workplaces will have different needs:
    • Position workers to allow for physical distancing. Keep 2 metres’ distance between workers and customers, clients, and other workers.
    • Provide soap and water or hand sanitizers and encourage workers to wash their hands frequently.
    • Enhance cleaning and disinfecting of the workplace, particularly high-contact items such as door handles, faucet handles, keyboards, and shared equipment.
  • What is your workplace doing to prohibit the following workers from coming to work?
    • Workers who are displaying symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, sore throat, sneezing), whether or not the illness has been confirmed as COVID-19.
    • Workers who have travelled internationally. It is mandatory for all travellers returning to Canada to self-isolate for 14-days.
    • Workers who live in the same household as a confirmed or clinical COVID-19 case who is self- isolating, or who have been exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 infected person and advised by 811 (public health) to self-isolate.
  • How are you communicating these messages to your managers, supervisors, and workers?
  • What are you doing to track and communicate with workers who fall into one of the above categories?

According to the latest BC COVID-19 update on Monday, the total number of cases in the province now sits at 970, after 16 cases were recorded on March 29, and a further 70 on March 30.

Broken down by health region, BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there are 472 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 323 in Fraser Health, 67 on Vancouver Island, 94 in Interior Health, and 14 in Northern Health.

Of these cases, 106 people are in hospital, with 60 of those in intensive care. In total, 469 people have now fully recovered from the virus.

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