Earlier this month, Dr. Bonnie Henry said that British Columbia was coming to the “end of our beginning of this pandemic.”  As the number of reported cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have decreased, we British Columbians have begun to look forward to our uncertain future.  To give us an idea of what is in store, the government announced a phased plan for reopening businesses safely.  Many non-essential businesses may start opening after the Victoria Day long weekend, but any businesses that do open their doors must comply with the social distancing measures and other public health orders that have kept us safe.  What this means will not just be industry specific, but specific to your business and your location.

WorkSafeBC has been given the task of assisting businesses with their re-opening.  Details are thin right now, but what is necessary is that you as an employer come up with a plan that will both protect your employees and your customers.  WorkSafe has developed a guide to assist, breaking down the necessary plan into the following steps:

  1. Assess the risks at your workplace

The question you need to ask yourself is where can the virus transmit in your workplace?  Are there areas, like the kitchen or copyroom, where people will have difficulty social distancing? What are people touching throughout the day? Are people sharing anything?

  1. Implement measures to reduce the risk

We now all know the importance of social distancing.  Now that you have assessed your workplace you need to put in practices that enforce that.  For example, limiting the amount of people allowed in the kitchen.  If there are parts of your business where social distancing can’t be maintained, such as a cashier, then a plexiglass barrier will be necessary.  Frequently clean frequently touched services and encourage employees to wash their hands.

  1. Develop policies

Your policies must follow provincial guidelines.  Employees must self isolate if they show symptoms or have been outside Canada.  There is also a zero tolerance policy for employees working while sick. You should develop policies that encourage sick days and do not punish employees for being proactive about working from home.

  1. Develop communication plans and training

Your employees must know your plan and must know what they can do to keep your business safe.  Training and signage is a must.

  1. Monitor your workplace and update your plans as needed

Listen to your workers.  If they feel unsafe then address their concerns.  This situation is ever developing and you need to keep on top of new policies and new safety measures.

  1. Assess and address risks from resuming operations

Not all the issues with reopening are directly related to the virus.  Do you need to retrain staff who have been laid off for some time? How has your machinery faired during the shutdown?

 

The above is a synopsis of what is found on WorkSafeBC’s website.  It is not all inclusive of their recommendations.  I highly recommend that all employer’s read WorkSafeBC’s information on Covid-19 and, if you are re-opening your business, the guide found HERE

You have a duty to keep your employees safe.  If you do not follow the recommendations as outlined by the government you may be liable for any infection that occurs.

Be safe and healthy in these trying times.  We are at the end of the beginning.

Mike was called to the British Columbia bar in 2015, and before joining Drysdale Bacon McStravick LLP, he articled at a criminal defence firm in Toronto. Mike spent his articling year developing extensive litigation experience by attending court daily and assisting on files at every level of the Ontario courts.

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