Phase 3 of BC’s COVID-19 Restart Plan began 1 July 2021. Businesses are now able to increase capacity for customers and workers in workplaces, provided that they maintain measures to keep the public and employees safe.
To-date, such measures included mandatory COVID-19 Safety Plans. However, effective the start of Phase 3, all sectors will instead transition to communicable disease prevention and must follow Health and Safety Guidelines issued by WorkSafeBC and the requirements of BC’s Provincial Health Officer (“PHO”). Unlike the more comprehensive COVID-19 Safety Plans, communicable disease prevention focuses on basic risk reduction principles to reduce the risk of workplace transmission of communicable diseases such as COVID-19, norovirus, and seasonal influenza. Furthermore, employers do not have to write or post plans for communicable disease prevention or have them approved by WorkSafeBC.
WorkSafeBC mandatory measures
WorkSafeBC has prepared an employer’s guide for preventing communicable diseases in the workplace. Among other things, employers should:
- Implement policies to support staff who may be sick with a communicable disease (for example, recent onset of coughing, fever, chills or diarrhea), so they can avoid being at the workplace;
- Promote hand hygiene by providing hand hygiene facilities with appropriate supplies and reminding employees through policies and signage to wash their hands regularly and to use appropriate hygiene practices, including covering coughs and sneezes;
- Maintain a clean environment through routine cleaning processes;
- Ensure adequate building ventilation is properly maintained and functioning as designed; and
- Support employees in receiving vaccinations for vaccine-preventable conditions to the extent possible.
Additional PHO measures
On 17 June 2021, the PHO issued a statement asking employers to be prepared to implement additional prevention measures as required by a medical health officer or the provincial health officer to deal with communicable diseases in their workplace or region, should they be necessary.
Additionally, the PHO has recommended that employers maintain some of their current protocols, specifically those that do not negatively impact business operations such as directional arrows which can manage areas of congestion in workplaces.
The COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving with new measures being adopted or modified at both the federal and provincial level.