OHS Canada Magazine

B.C. employers shift from COVID-19 safety plans to prevention as communicable disease


VANCOUVER — WorkSafeBC has issued guidelines for employers on transitioning from safety measures around COVID-19 to preventing the illness as a communicable disease.

The change is in line with the next phase of the province’s reopening plan, expected to kick in on Thursday.

WorkSafeBC is putting provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s recent advice into practice by asking employers to ensure that fundamental practices like handwashing and personal hygiene are followed before the regular season of respiratory illness begins in the fall.

Employers will be required to provide appropriate ventilation and encourage employees to stay home when they are sick.

Henry has also said employers must be prepared to implement or maintain additional measures when the risk of communicable disease including influenza is elevated in their region or the workplace.

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Al Johnson, WorkSafeBC’s head of prevention services, says the agency is expecting more direction on whether masks should continue to be worn as employers slowly shift to taking on new responsibilities over the coming weeks and months.

“We’re not expecting employers to immediately, on the 1st of July, to take away all of the precautions and safeguards that they were employing for the last 15 months, but to work with their workers and to transition away from those,” Johnson says.

He says workers have the right to refuse unsafe work, the same as any time they don’t feel they are being adequately protected.

Johnson says prevention officers will continue to do inspections as they have done for COVID-19 plans, but will now be shifting to more consultation with employers and workers.