On March 30, 2020, WorkSafeBC published its guide to assist employers with preventing exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.
An employer is responsible to ensure its workplace is safe for all of its employees and to adhere to any orders issued by the Provincial Health Officer. For those businesses that have not been ordered closed by the Provincial Health Officer, WorkSafeBC’s guide provides a number of steps employers can take to prevent COVID-19 exposure in the workplace. These steps include:
- Establishing a system where workers can inform the employer of concerns relating to potentially being exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace. This can be facilitated through pre-existing joint health and safety committees.
- Ensuring information is being communicated to all employees about COVID-19 in the workplace.
- Conducting walk-throughs of the workplace to identify specific conditions or tasks that may increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Once a risk of exposure has been identified discuss potential solutions to controlling exposure with employees and the joint health and safety committee.
- Identifying controls that have been put in place to reduce exposure to COVID-19 and implement measures to assess the effectiveness of these controls.
- Staggering shifts to reduce the number of employees present at the workplace where possible, and ensure adequate cleaning is taking place between shifts.
- Prioritizing core work that needs to be done at the workplace and then determining where this core work can be safely and productively performed from (i.e. at a safe distance from others in the workplace).
- Positioning employees in the workplace to allow for physical distancing, keeping two metres between employees and customers, clients, and other workers.
- Providing soap and water or hand sanitizers for the workplace and encouraging employees to wash their hands frequently.
- Increasing workplace cleaning, particularly for high-contact items such as door handles, faucet handles, keyboard, and shared equipment.
- Implementing a system which tracks and communicates with employees to stay at home who have displayed symptoms of COVID-19 (i.e. fever, cough,, sore throat, and sneezing), who have travelled internationally, or who live in the same household as a confirmed COVID-19 case, or someone who has been exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 case.
The full guide published by WorkSafeBC can be downloaded here.
WorkSafeBC has also created industry specific COVID-19 health and safety information for construction, manufacturing and retail here.
Up-to-date Orders, Notices and Guidance from the Provincial Health Officer can be found here.
Amendments to the Workers Compensation Act
Changes to the language and numbering in the Workers Compensation Act (the “WCA”) come into effect April 6, 2020. Employers should update their internal policies or documents to ensure references to specific sections of the WCA are accurate. Among other amendments, an employer’s obligations to ensure the health and safety of its employees and workplace will now be at the beginning of the WCA in s.21 as opposed to s.115 of the current legislation. WorkSafeBC has prepared a table which summarizes the changes to the numbering and organization of the WCA, which can be found here.
This article provides only general information about legal issues and developments, and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Please see our disclaimer for more details.