Current WorkSafeBC Guidance – COVID-19 Pandemic

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  • March 23, 2020

Current WorkSafeBC Guidance – COVID-19 Pandemic

WorkSafeBC has recently provided more specific information and direction about COVID-19 to employers and employees.[1]

Employers

Employers should first seriously consider whether they can keep their workers out of the workplace. WorkSafeBC has made it clear that employers must ensure that the following employees should not attend work:

  • Workers who are ill, whether or not the illness has been confirmed as COVID-19;
  • Workers who have travelled internationally. In these cases, they must remain away from the workplace for at least 14 days;
  • Workers who have an ill person in their home;
  • Workers who share a residence with a person who has been exposed to COVID-19.

For everyone else, employers should consider whether it is necessary for employees to attend work at all. Specifically, employers should if practicable, curtail non-essential work at the workplace and consider having workers work remotely.

If employees must attend work, employers should take steps to ensure social distancing and reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. WorkSafe BC gives the following examples:

  • Reconfiguring the workplace to maintain appropriate distance between workers;
  • Limiting worker participation in in-person gatherings and encouraging practices like teleconferences as an alternative;
  • Limiting worker travel;
  • Educating workers on health and safety measures to prevent transmission of infectious disease; and
  • Increase workplace cleaning, provide the necessary supplies, and reinforce personal hygiene messages to workers.

Employers may need to implement measures that conform to the unique circumstances of the workplace.

Occupational Health and Safety Responsibilities when Employees Work from Home:

WorkSafeBC has recently given specific guidance regarding health and safety responsibilities when workers are working from home. Specifically, WorkSafeBC says:

  • The employer should ensure it has a basic health and safety policy for working from home, and that each party understands their role, duties, and responsibilities.
  • At minimum, this policy should require employees to conduct an assessment of their workplace and report any hazards to their manager. An example of some other factors to consider in this policy include:
  • Protocols for evacuating from the home or temporary workplace to a safe location if needed and how contact the employer in case of emergency;
  • Discussion of safe workplace practices and how to report any work-related incidents or injuries; and
  • Discussion of ergonomic considerations.

Many health and safety responsibilities are just as applicable for at-home workers as they are for more traditional workplaces, for example:

  • Reporting workplace injuries;
  • Requirements for education and training; and
  • Worker’s duty to follow safe work procedures.

Some health and safety requirements will need to be administered in different ways for at-home staff, including:

  • The role of the worker’s supervisor will need to be outlined;
  • Ergonomic assessments will need to be performed and control measures implemented; and
  • How the employer will follow-up on reported incidents will require special consideration in advance of any work being done from a residence.

Employers should be aware that there are check-in or other special procedures for workers working “alone” or in “isolation”.

Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (OHS Regulations) define “to work alone or in isolation” means to work in circumstances where assistance would not be readily available to the worker (a) in case of emergency, or (b) in case the worker is injured or in ill health. To determine whether assistance is readily available employers should consider the following:

  • Presence of others: Are other people in the vicinity?
  • Awareness: Will other persons capable of providing assistance be aware of the worker’s need?
  • Willingness: Is it reasonable to expect those other persons will provide assistance?
  • Timeliness: Will assistance be provided within a reasonable period of time?

If a worker is working “alone” or in “isolation”, then employers are required to implement procedures to ensure occupational health and safety. A detailed description of those procedures can be found here: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/law-policy/occupational-health-safety/searchable-ohs-regulation/ohs-guidelines/guidelines-part-04#SectionNumber:G4.21

More details about WorkSafeBC guidelines and OHS Regulations regarding workers working in isolation or alone can be found here:

https://www.worksafebc.com/en/about-us/news-events/announcements/2020/March/health-safety-responsibilities-when-working-from-home

https://www.worksafebc.com/en/law-policy/occupational-health-safety/searchable-ohs-regulation/ohs-guidelines/guidelines-part-04#SectionNumber:G4.20.1

[1] https://www.worksafebc.com/en/about-us/covid-19-updates