WorkSafe BC has published guidelines for employers on preventing exposure to Covid-19 in the workplace. The guidelines emphasize that the Orders from the Provincial Health Officer and the BC Centre of Disease Control are the minimum standards that must be met by all employers to comply with their duty to provide a safe work environment. The guidelines urge employers to consider two key questions:
- How are you telling workers about exposure to Covid-19 in the workplace?
- Do you have a system in place where workers can tell you about concerns related to being exposed to Covid-19 in the workplace? This involves determining whether there are any specific tasks that concern them because of risk of being exposed to Covid-19.
The Guidelines deal with three specific areas:
- identifying exposure hazards and developing measures to counter exposure;
- controlling the number of people on site; and
- prohibiting workers who are sick and those returning from outside Canada from attending work.
With respect to identifying and controlling exposure to risks, the guidelines require employers to consider specific conditions or tasks that have the possibility of increasing exposure to Covid-19, including asking workers where they see the potential risks. The employer must then develop processes to control the risk of exposure. The guidelines can be downloaded here.
Workers in BC have the right to refuse work if they believe it presents an undue hazard. For the purposes of WorkSafe BC an undue hazard is an “unwarranted, inappropriate, excessive, or disproportionate” risk, above and beyond the potential exposure a general member of the public would face through regular, day to day activity. If a worker believes that they are being exposed to a risk of exposure to Covid-19 they may refuse to attend work. If they do so, this would trigger a requirement on the part of the employer to investigate and put steps in place to reduce the risk of exposure if appropriate.
WorkSafe has compiled health and safety information for a variety of industries, including agriculture, construction, forestry, health care, manufacturing, retail and transportation. The industry specific guidelines can be found here. If operations are continuing during the pandemic, the information relevant to your industry should be consulted. Prevention officers will be continuing inspections during the pandemic, focusing on the controls that the employer can use to limit exposure. The key measures that can be taken by employers including ensuring the distance between workers is maintained and adequate hygiene facilities are available.
This update was authored by Rose Keith, QC. Questions? Comments? Concerns? Or looking for more information on developments regarding the evolving COVID-19 pandemic? Contact Rose at email@example.com or anyone else listed on the authors page.