WorkSafeBC Releases COVID-19 Guidelines While Businesses Are Ready To Reopen

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VANCOUVER –
The British Columbia workplace safety agency released new guidelines as businesses in the province prepare to reopen on Friday.

The WorkSafeBC guidelines cover areas ranging from restaurants to offices, including advice on the number of people who should be allowed into a business as well as control of entry and exit points.

Al Johnson, the agency’s chief prevention officer, said the guidelines were a “collaborative exercise” that included employers, retail and safety associations, restaurants, farm groups and government departments .

In all sectors, the directives insist on having the least possible contact with customers and to maintain a social distance when they reopen on Tuesday.

WorkSafeBC advises businesses to follow the protocol for gatherings, limit events, such as museum visits, and work to establish safe occupancy limits.

He said specific guidelines for sports, recreation and child care will be released later.

But before reopening, the security agency said companies must make sure they have a COVID-19 security plan to protect workers and that it must be posted.

Johnson said that every employer and business is different, but the main safety concerns revolve around the general principles of maintaining distance, not just between workers but also with the public. The principles also include good sanitation and hygiene practices, cleaning and rethinking business practices.

“Without a doubt, the devil is in the details when it comes to developing a plan, a security plan … so there will be questions, there will be people who will need more information and we are ready, “said Johnson in an interview.

Employers should seek the advice of workers to ensure their concerns are taken into account, he added.

About 300 prevention officers will oversee the implementation of the guidelines through unannounced inspections and the handling of complaints, he said.

“We want employers to succeed here, so we want to do everything with them and make sure employers have everything in place,” said Johnson.

If employers don’t have a health and safety plan or plan to create one, WorkSafeBC will take action, he said.

“We will write orders and take them to punish if we need to like any other workplace health and safety violation,” he said.

Sanctions could include a ticket, order, monetary penalty, or even closing a business until a violation is corrected.

“We hope it doesn’t happen to that,” he said.

Johnson said employees have the right to refuse work if they don’t feel safe and should follow the information on the WorkSafeBC website to file a complaint.

The agency says it will continue to develop industry-specific guidelines as more businesses in British Columbia begin to reopen in the coming months.

Provincial health worker Dr. Bonnie Henry previously said businesses don’t have to reopen on Tuesday, and should only do so when they’re ready.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 15, 2020.

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