Returning to Safe Operation

The BC Government has announced its phased approach to reopening businesses.  The BC Government has partnered with WorkSafeBC to develop resources and general guides to assist in the transition from virus-related lockdown to carefully restarting social and commercial life.

Employers are required to develop a reopening plan or transition plan when returning employees to the workplace and restarting operations.  When developing a reopening or transition plan, the goal is to control the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission to employees and others in the workplace.

Ill Employees and Clients

The first step in managing the risk is to control access to your workplace.  First and foremost, instituting policies where anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 such as sore throat, fever, sneezing, or coughing are required to self-isolate at home for 10 days from onset of symptoms and not attend the workplace.  This applies equally to employees and clients.  In addition, if an employee is feeling unwell at work, they should be sent home until the extent of their symptoms is clear.

Working from Home

The next step to controlling access to your workplace is continuing to allow employees to work from home where feasible.  It is important to note that as employees continue to work from home and many more may work from home more regularly or transition permanently in the future, employers have a responsibility to ensure the employee’s health and safety.  Employers should consider:

  • Emergency protocols;
  • Safe workplace practices;
  • Ergonomics; and
  • Supervision.

Physical Distancing

Physical distancing, keeping a minimum of 2 meters (six feet) away from one another, continues to be of primary significance in controlling the risk of COVID-19 transmission and exposure.  As employees transition back into the workplace the following will need to be considered:

  • Reconfiguring workspaces to maintain appropriate distance between employees and clients;
  • The installation of physical barriers between employees and clients;
  • Modifying in-person meetings to incorporate the minimum distancing;
  • Incorporating video conferencing and conference calls;
  • Introducing policies with respect to scheduling appointments and waiting areas to limit contact between employees and clients; and
  • Limiting the number of employees in lunchrooms, break rooms and elevators.

Cleaning and Hygiene

An enhanced workplace sanitation, cleaning and hygiene plan and schedule are another step in controlling the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission.  It may be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.  Cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces can help prevent the transmission of COVID-19.  Anything that is touched often or located in a high traffic area needs to be cleaned often.  For example (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Door handles
  • Countertops
  • Desks
  • Phones
  • Keyboards
  • Toilets
  • Sinks
  • Light Switches
  • Handrails
  • Elevators
  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Photocopier/Printers
  • Shared Coffee and Water Stations

Communication and Training

It is crucial for workplaces to effectively manage the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission that Employers train employees on policies, practices and procedures introduced into the workplace.  Conduct a risk assessment, develop policies and procedures, and communicate regularly with employees.  Employers must also recognize that these are unprecedented times and the situation can change day to day, week to week.  Regular monitoring of the workplace and adjustment of policies and procedures, as Employer’s resume operations or transition employees back into the workplace, will be critical to ensuring a safe workplace for employees and clients.

Be sure to check the Provincial Health Officer Orders, Notices, and Guidance to stay apprised of any changes that apply to your workplace.

Click this link for additional information with respect to Returning to Work and Reopening your business in the wake of COVID-19.

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