Article by: Alissa Demerse + Kate Jones
By now, we are likely all used to the changing guidance in both our personal and professional lives. Therefore, on January 20, 2022, in the wake of Omicron, the fastest spreading strain of the COVID-19 virus, for most employers it likely came as no surprise when Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a new public order requiring all businesses to implement (or reactivate) a COVID-19 Safety Plan.
COVID-19 Safety Plans require employers to implement safety measures in order to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 at the workplace. As Dr. Henry noted, these measures include elements such as implementing barriers, reducing crowds in congested areas, allowing staff to work from home when possible, and facilitating workers to stay home when sick.
Does this sound familiar? If you are an employer, it likely does. COVID-19 Safety Plans were required at the beginning of the pandemic and until July 3, 2021, when WorkSafeBC removed this specific requirement and allowed employers to move towards communicable disease prevention. Communicable disease prevention is a broader obligation which encompasses monitoring for increased risks of exposures to all communicable diseases in the workplace and not just COVID-19. Thus, even without an order, it is diligent for employers to proactively bring back their COVID-19 Safety Plans during this time of higher risk.
On January 20, 2022, Dr. Henry stated that she was reimplementing the requirement for the COVID-19 Safety Plan because “these work.” Dr. Henry noted that this order is about “business continuity” and activating all layers of protection in order to reduce the impact of Omicron in the community. Dr. Henry also stated that WorkSafeBC will once again oversee employer compliance with this order.
Although this new order may feel like déjà vu… it’s not. The COVID-19 Safety Plan is back and employers are well-advised to follow this current requirement.
To review the requirements for a COVID-19 Safety Plan please visit: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/covid-19/covid-19-prevention
While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy in this article, you are urged to seek specific advice on matters of concern and not to rely solely on what is contained herein. The article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.