British Columbia

WorkSafeBC launches new employer guidelines as British Columbians start returning to work

As communities across the province prepare for the "new normal" of next week's Phase 2 pandemic response, employers in every sector will have to heed new health and safety protocols to keep COVID-19 at bay.

Health and safety protocols required for every sector as province enters Phase 2

Hair salons and other businesses are set to reopen after the May long weekend as the province enters Phase 2 of its restart plan, but WorkSafeBC officers will be inspecting to make sure employers are adhering to new health and safety guidelines. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

If you are a B.C. employer who plans to reopen for business in the coming weeks, you must have health and safety protocols in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. WorkSafeBC has released new resources that can help.

The province is entering Phase 2 of its restart plan next week, which includes the gradual reopening of many businesses and service providers, as well as schools and medical offices. 

Industry-specific guidelines are now available from WorkSafeBC for the following sectors: Restaurants, cafés and pubs, real estate, arts and cultural facilities, retail, K-12 education, parks and outdoor spaces, health services, in-person counselling and office space.

"We've developed both general and industry-specific materials in consultation with industry and labour stakeholders to ensure they are practical and understandable for workplaces in each sector," Al Johnson, head of prevention services at WorkSafeBC, said in a media release.

The provincial agency has also developed general resources for all workplaces. These include: a COVID-19 safety plan template, workplace posters, information on cleaning and hygiene practices and guidance on the selection and use of masks.

Restaurants getting ready

To meet requirements, Darragh McFeely, operations manager of Nuba restaurants, is implementing numerous changes at the Lebanese restaurant's four locations.

Tables will be spaced further apart. Fewer items will be on the table. Disinfection will be stepped up. Plexiglass will be installed. And because they have fewer staff and are aiming to reduce waste, fewer items will be on the menu.

"We're used to changes in this industry. This is definitely the biggest one so far," McFeely said.

"We feel good. We're not going to rush it."

Darragh McFeely demonstrates a new addition to Lebanese restaurant Nuba: a new take-out window. (CBC)

McFeely doesn't expect Nuba will be opening up at the earliest possible moment. When they do, it's not clear how soon diners and workers will be ready to return.

"Everyone's processing this whole thing in their own way. Everyone will have the ability to do what's comfortable for them."

The protocols won't be ideal for the bottom line, he said, but he supports them from a safety perspective.

Some protocols still pending

Employers do not need to submit their safety plan for review or approval. According to WorkSafeBC, prevention officers will instead begin a provincewide verification and inspection initiative to make sure employers have plans in place.

"The planning process should involve workers for their input to ensure their concerns are heard and addressed," said Johnson.

According to the agency, sector-specific guidelines for child care and recreation will be available in the coming days.

All the relevant information is available on WorkSafeBC's website.

Workers and employers with questions can call WorkSafeBC's information line at 1-888-621-7233 to speak directly with a prevention officer.

With files from Tina Lovgreen

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