VANCOUVER—WorkSafeBC in conjunction with the B.C. government is putting the word out to employers that COVID-19 safety plans need to be reinstated in the face of the Omicron variant.
Early in the pandemic B.C. employers were asked to implement detailed COVID-19 safety plans but by July 1, 2021 those measures were replaced by a more general approach to communicable disease prevention as the province reopened.
On Jan. 7, 2022 provincial health officer Bonnie Henry announced a new order requiring employers to reinstate site-specific and prescriptive COVID-19 safety plans to address the heightened risk of the Omicron variant.
“While communicable disease prevention plans and COVID-19 Safety Plans share some of the same fundamental principles, COVID-19 Safety Plans are formal, written plans with more rigorous controls and are more appropriate for periods of elevated risk,” a WorkSafeBC release stated, adding with the involvement and participation of workers, employers should review and update their COVID-19 safety plans, including:
- Reviewing existing procedures and worker protections;
- where needed, enhancing those protections to the extent practicable; and
- communicating with workers to ensure they understand their role in controlling the risk.
If workers test positive for COVID-19, they need to follow the guidance of the BC Centre for Disease Control around taking care of themselves, self-isolating and notifying close contacts, the release added.
WorkSafeBC also encouraged employers to consider staff-vaccination policies based on their own due diligence.
Workers are also being advised to be aware of and follow workplace heath and safety responsibilities including guidance on self-managing COVID-19 symptoms.
Workers also have the right to refuse work they believe presents undue hazard, which in the case of COVID-19 would be where a worker’s job places them at increased risk of exposure with adequate controls not in place to prevent that exposure.
The COVID-19 section of worksafebc.com has been updated to include information about the recent order, a revised template for completing a COVID 19 safety plan, and workers and employers can also call WorkSafeBC’s Prevention Information Line at 1-888-621-7233 to speak directly with a prevention officer.