BC issues new orders and guidance to employers for Phase 2 of its Restart Plan

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As BC begins Phase 2 of its Restart Plan, the Provincial Health Officer and WorkSafeBC (“WSBC”) have published the following orders, guidance and resources relevant to employers.

Orders by the Provincial Health Officer

On May 14, 2020, Dr. Henry issued an order cancelling her earlier April 16, 2020 order that operators close all personal service establishments and stop providing personal services in any location. Personal service establishments may open effective May 19, 2020.

On May 14, 2020, Dr. Henry enacted an order regarding workplace safety plans (the “COVID-19 Safety Plans”). Under the order, an employer must post a copy of its COVID-19 Safety Plan on its website, if it has one, and at all of its workplaces so that it may be reviewed by workers, individuals who attend the workplace and members of the public. On request, an employer must also provide a copy of its COVID-19 Safety Plan to a health officer or a WSBC officer.

On May 15, 2020, Dr. Henry issued an order allowing restaurants and bars to open subject to conditions, including implementing physical distancing measures. Patrons must be able to maintain a distance of two metres from staff as well as one another, unless they are in the same party. Further, establishments cannot exceed 50 percent of their usual capacity of patrons present at one time, and they cannot hold events that include more than 50 people. If practicable, establishments must retain contact information for one member of every party of patrons for thirty days in the event that the medical health officer needs it for contact tracing. Finally, nightclubs must remain closed. The order came into effect on May 19, 2020.

The Provincial Health Officer may take enforcement action against any party that violates these orders under Part 4, Division 6 of the Public Health Act.

Recent Guidance

The BC Ministry of Health and the BC Centre for Disease Control recently published guidance for employers and workers in various sectors, including natural resources, farming and hotels.

The guidance for natural resource sector work camps includes conducting a COVID-19 workplace risk assessment for field operations, worker education, increased hygiene and cleaning practices, physical distancing, transportation for workers, guidance for workers while working, guidance for workers during breaks or while in communal spaces, guidance for situations where maintaining physical distance of two metres is difficult, guidance on handling tools and equipment, guidance on COVID-19 and worker accommodation, information regarding First Nations and First Nations Health Centres, physical distancing and local communities, information about face masks, and what employers must do to monitor worker health.

The guidance for farms and farm workers includes conducting a COVID-19 workplace risk assessment for the farm operation, worker education, guidance for training workers and employers on hygiene, guidance for increased hygiene, guidance for increased cleaning, physical distancing, transportation for workers, guidance for workers while working, guidance for workers during breaks or while in communal spaces, guidance for situations where maintaining physical distance of two metres is difficult, guidance on handling tools and equipment, guidance on COVID-19 hygiene and worker accommodation, information regarding First Nations and First Nations Health Centres, physical distancing and local communities, information about face masks, and what employers must do to monitor worker health. The guidance acknowledges that physical distancing between farm workers may be difficult in certain situations. Where workers are required to work together in close proximity to complete tasks, employers should form work pods (of six or fewer workers, if possible) to limit close contact within a small group. Similarly, where workers are required to travel together in vehicles to the work site, workers must travel in designated vehicles with their work pod and frequently clean and disinfect vehicles.

Guidance for the hotel sector covers general cleaning, housekeeping and laundry, waste management, food and beverage services, spas and salons, pools, fitness centres and playgrounds, staff health, and communication, signage and posters.

WSBC Guidance and Resources

WSBC has recently issued guidance relevant to Phase 2, including about COVID-19 Safety Plans, controlling exposure of the virus to workers, and new communication and training requirements.

COVID-19 Safety Plans

Employers must involve frontline workers, joint health and safety committees and supervisors when creating protocols for their workplace. WSBC has published a six-step process to help employers create their COVID-19 Safety Plan. The WSBC template is a fillable PDF that employers can use to develop their policies, guidelines and procedures. Employers are not required to have a formal plan in place prior to beginning operations, but are expected to develop their COVID-19 Safety Plan while taking steps to protect their workers’ safety. WSBC will consider enforcement measures if employers fail to take measures to protect workers from COVID-19.

Controlling Exposure

Employers should develop policies on who can be at the workplace, including policies on sick workers and recent travel. Employers do not have to implement health monitoring, such as temperatures checks or medical questionnaires, and should be aware of privacy issues if they choose to collect potentially sensitive medical information. WSBC notes that wearing masks is not mandatory for workers outside healthcare workplaces, and that masks and other personal protective equipment (“PPE”) should not be used as the only control measure. Instead, employers should offer the following types of protection, listed in order of greatest efficacy: i) eliminate risks (i.e. by limiting the number of workers at any one time, and enforce physical distancing), ii) implement engineering controls (i.e. installing barriers such as Plexiglas to separate people), iii) establish administrative controls (i.e. cleaning protocols) and iv) supply PPE such as non-medical masks.

Communication and Training

Employers should provide information to workers describing how they are managing COVID-19, including COVID-19 symptoms and a reminder not to go to work if workers have them, occupancy limits in common areas and other physical distancing measures, how specific tasks have been changed to prevent the potential spread of the virus, and instructions about hygiene. Employers are also responsible for training workers in tasks that they have changed as part of their COVID-19 Safety Plan, such as limits on the number of people in certain areas of the workplace and cleaning expectations for common areas and equipment. Where workplaces interface with customers, employers should consider adding signage, floor markings and other directions to ensure customers are maintaining physical distance from workers.

This update is part of our continuing efforts to keep you informed about COVID-19. Check our COVID-19 hub and our McCarthy Tétrault Employer Advisor blog for further updates, including in-depth analysis of reopening plans in the federal and various provincial jurisdictions. If you need assistance, please reach out to any member of our National Labour & Employment Team.

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