June 28, 2021
Dear ABLE BC members and industry colleagues,
As you know, since the BC government declared a provincial state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, WorkSafeBC has required employers to develop a COVID-19 Safety Plan. Employers have been required by order of the provincial health officer to post a copy of these COVID-19 Safety Plans.
As vaccinations have become widely available to British Columbians, the overall risk of COVID-19 transmission is reduced. However, the virus may still circulate, as will the viruses for other communicable diseases, such as seasonal influenza, norovirus, and others.
The BC government’s Restart Plan outlines the four steps to reduce restrictions in public spaces and in workplaces. Step 3, starting no sooner than July 1, 2021, will begin a transition period in how COVID-19 is managed in workplaces.
Preparing for Step 3 of BC’s Restart
On June 17, the provincial health officer issued a statement to employers on transitioning from COVID-19 Safety Plans to communicable disease prevention.
Prior to Step 3 of the Restart plan, the expectation is that employers will continue to maintain and review their COVID-19 Safety Plans.
Beginning with Step 3 (July 1), employers will no longer be required to maintain a COVID-19 Safety Plan, and will instead transition to communicable disease prevention.
For more information on the transition, please click here or read below.
Communicable Disease Prevention: A guide for employers
Download this new resource from WorkSafeBC.
This guide provides information for employers to develop a communicable disease plan. An effective plan includes general measures to reduce the risk of communicable disease and additional measures for when there’s an elevated risk of communicable disease. It is not meant for employers who have an existing exposure control plan related to communicable disease, such as health care employers.
Frequently Asked Questions: Transitioning to Step 3
WorkSafeBC answers the following frequently asked questions.
Do I need to maintain a COVID 19 Safety Plan?
No, beginning with Step 3 of BC’s Restart, employers will no longer be required to maintain a COVID-19 Safety Plan and will instead transition to communicable disease prevention.
Do I need to develop a written communicable disease plan, and does this need to be posted at my workplace like the COVID-19 Safety Plan was?
Employers are expected to take reasonable steps to manage health and safety in their workplace, including preventing communicable disease transmission. Other than in specific instances where Exposure Control Plans are required to control the transmission of communicable disease, such as health care, your plan does not need to be written, posted, or approved by WorkSafeBC. Employers may refer to Communicable disease prevention: A guide for employers for steps they can take to effectively manage communicable disease.
What can I expect from a WorkSafeBC inspection for communicable disease prevention?
During an inspection, employers may be asked to demonstrate that they have practices in place to prevent communicable disease transmission in their workplace, and that they are following any orders, guidance, or recommendations from their regional health authority or the provincial health officer that applies to their workplace.
Am I required to limit the number of customers and workers in my workplace or in spaces such as lunchrooms?
It is anticipated that, beginning in Step 3, employers are not required to limit the number of customers and workers in their workplace as part of ongoing communicable disease prevention measures. In cases of elevated risk, a medical health officer or the provincial health officer may direct employers in a specific region, industry, or workplace to implement occupancy limits.
Are workers or members of the public required to wear masks in the workplace?
As BC moves through the Restart plan, Public Health will provide guidance on the use of masks for both workplaces and public spaces. Employers are advised to follow the direction of Public Health with respect to the use of masks. This may include guidance, requirements, or recommendations for both workers and members of the public.
Employers may choose to implement mask policies for workers and/or members of the public that exceed the requirements of Public Health.
Can I take my barriers down?
It is anticipated that, beginning in Step 3, barriers are no longer required in workplaces as part of ongoing communicable disease prevention measures. However, the provincial health officer has issued a statement recommending that employers maintain some existing COVID-19 protocols that do not negatively impact business operations, so if employers have existing barriers in place that are not interfering with operations, they are advised to keep these in place for the time being.
Can I remove the directional arrows from my workplace?
The provincial health officer has issued a statement recommending that employers maintain some existing COVID-19 protocols that do not negatively impact business operations. If directional arrows are effective in managing areas of congestion in your workplace, and if they do not negatively impact business operations, it is recommended that you keep these in place until this recommendation from the PHO is revised or removed.
Can I require a worker to be vaccinated as a condition of employment?
No, but employers should support workers to be vaccinated for vaccine-preventable conditions if they are able to do so. Under provincial law, workers are entitled up to three hours of paid leave to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
Are there industry specific protocols available for communicable disease prevention?
Communicable disease prevention is based on basic principles for maintaining worker health and reducing the risks to workers in all workplaces from communicable disease. More information is provided in Communicable disease prevention: A guide for employers.
Do I need to keep some of the existing protocols from my COVID-19 Safety Plan?
Some of the fundamental elements of communicable disease prevention are similar to the measures employers and workers have been following during the pandemic, including:
- Not coming to work if you are sick
- Healthy hand hygiene practices, including hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes
- Maintaining a clean work environment
- Ensuring adequate ventilation
- Supporting employees in receiving vaccinations for vaccine-preventable conditions to the extent that you are able
It is anticipated that, beginning in Step 3, other protocols, like distancing and barriers, will no longer be required. However, for the time being during the transition period, the provincial health officer has issued a statement recommending that employers maintain some of their current protocols, specifically those that do not negatively impact business operations.
There may also be instances where, based on direction from Public Health, employers may need to re-introduce additional safety measures if there’s an elevated risk of COVID-19 transmission in their workplace or community.
For more information on additional measures, please click here.