Construction and COVID-19 safety
These protocols provide guidance to employers in the construction industry. These employers may also benefit from reviewing protocols developed for office spaces. Employers must also ensure they are abiding by any orders, notices, or guidance issued by the provincial health officer, and the appropriate health authority, that are relevant to their workplace.
For more information from WorkSafeBC, please see:
- COVID-19 health and safety information: general information for all employers and workers about staying safe at work
- Frequently asked questions: answers to questions from British Columbian workers and employers on how to maintain a healthy and safe workplace
COVID-19 safety plans
Every employer is required to have a COVID-19 safety plan that assesses the risk of exposure at their workplace and implements measures to keep their workers safe.
To help you develop your plan, this page provides information and resources on keeping workers safe in industries that have been providing essential services since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition to updating this page, we have provided additional information on developing a safety plan at COVID-19 and returning to safe operation, including a template for a COVID-19 Safety Plan, and in our COVID-19 Safety Plan OHS Guideline, which includes information on the level of detail required and using supporting documentation.
WorkSafeBC will be reviewing plans of individual employers during their inspections of your workplace. Please be reminded that in accordance with the order of the provincial health officer, this plan must be posted at the worksite. During a WorkSafeBC inspection, we will ask employers about the steps they have taken to protect their workers and to see the plan if it has been developed. To learn more, read Inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The role of prime contractors, employers, and sub-contractors
Prime contractors have specific responsibilities for health and safety and must ensure that the activities of employers, workers, sub-contractors and other parties at the workplace are coordinated. The prime contractor is also required to do everything that is reasonably practicable to establish and maintain a system or process that will ensure the compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and the Workers Compensation Act.
Construction employers and sub-contractors are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of workers by putting policies and procedures in place to keep workers healthy and safe, and providing workers with up-to-date instructions, training, and supervision on those policies and procedures.
Prime contractors, employers, and sub-contractors must have a mechanism in place for workers to raise issues and concerns about COVID-19 exposure so that additional precautions and controls can be put in place where required.
Controlling the risk of COVID-19 exposure
Construction employers must take all necessary precautions to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission and illness to themselves, workers, and others at the workplace. This includes:
- Implementing policies that reflect the following guidance from the provincial health officer and the BC Centre for Disease Control around self-isolation:
- Anyone who has had symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 10 days must self-isolate at home; symptoms include fever, chills, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, and new muscle aches or headache.
- Anyone under the direction of the provincial health officer to self-isolate must follow those instructions.
- Anyone who has arrived from outside of Canada must self-isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms.
- Maintaining a distance of two metres between workers wherever possible by revising work schedules, organizing work tasks, posting occupancy limits on elevators, and limiting the number of workers at one time in break locations
- Ensuring that no more than 50 people are in the same space by reducing in-person meetings and other gatherings, maintaining an up-to-date list of employees at the workplace, and holding on-site meetings in open spaces or outside
- Providing adequate hand-washing facilities on site for all workers and ensuring their location is visible and easily accessed
- Provide and maintain adequate washroom facilities as required by Regulation 4.85. WorkSafeBC has guidance around the minimum number of required washrooms, washroom facilities where no plumbing is available, and maintenance of washroom facilities
- Regularly cleaning all common areas and surfaces, including washrooms, shared offices, common tables, desks, light switches and door handles
Employers must communicate the policies and protocols that are in place to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission through training, signage, and site orientation as appropriate.
- Employers should assess the number of workers being transported at any one given time and employ measures to ensure distance between workers is maintained.
- Whenever possible, workers should travel alone in their vehicles in order to practice physical distancing. If that is the case, employers must implement all the necessary safeguards related to working alone or in isolation, to ensure the safety of these workers.
- Measures that may be taken to ensure appropriate distance include having workers sit one to a seat, with riders staggered to allow maximum distance, adjusting the number of workers taken per trip, and the overall number of trips needed to transport workers to a worksite. It may mean using larger vehicles to ensure maximum spacing, or using multiple vehicles.
- If it is not possible to ensure 2 metres of distance between workers in a vehicle through these measures, the employer must consider other control measures, such as PPE where appropriate.
- Employers must also implement a process that allows for physical distancing when loading and unloading buses or other vehicles. Workers waiting for loading/unloading should maintain physical distancing while remaining safely away from traffic.
- Employers should have hand washing facilities or sanitizing stations available to workers as they enter and exit the vehicle.
- Employers must ensure that high contact surfaces within the vehicle are routinely cleaned. These include seatbelts, headrests, door handles, steering wheels, and hand holds.
Work camps provide an environment that can foster the transmission of infections, so it is important to implement effective infection prevention and control measures that can reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Employers must ensure that these measures are in place and trained and communicated to everyone at the camp.
On July 2, 2020, the provincial health officer updated the order to employers in the natural resource sector providing worker accommodation. Employers are required to read and comply with this order in its entirety. It includes requirements for employers to:
- Develop a COVID-19 infection prevention and control protocol to reduce the risk of transmission both in worker accommodation and in vehicles used for work and to transport workers to and from their accommodation;
- Appoint a coordinator to oversee all aspects of the protocol, including monitoring workers daily for COVID-19 symptoms and for compliance with the provincial health officer order. The coordinator will also serve as the point of contact between the employer and health officers or provincial infection prevention and control officers; and,
- Arrange for a health officer or a provincial infection prevention and control officer to inspect the worksite, worker accommodations, and vehicles at the worksite. The required timeframes for these inspections are laid out in the order.
The order also contains specific requirements for workers, including requirements for self-monitoring, hygiene, travel, and physical distancing. The employer must post and communicate these requirements to all workers.
On May 13, 2020, the BC Centre for Disease Control also provided updated guidance to employers, camp operators, workers, and contractors living in employer-provided industrial camps during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, please see:
- Guidance to smaller industrial camps without an on-site medical clinic
- Guidance pertaining to large work camps that have on-site medical clinics
Resolving concerns about unsafe work
Workers have the right to refuse work if they believe it presents an undue hazard.
An undue hazard is an “unwarranted, inappropriate, excessive, or disproportionate” hazard. For COVID-19, an “undue hazard” would be one where a worker’s job role places them at increased risk of exposure and adequate controls are not in place to protect them from that exposure.
If the matter is not resolved, the worker and the supervisor or employer must contact WorkSafeBC. Once that occurs, a prevention officer will consult with workplace parties to determine whether there is an undue hazard and issue orders if necessary.
For more information, see Occupational Health and Safety Guideline G3.12.
For more information
Note: The information on this page is based on current recommendations and may change. Content from health and safety associations and other parties is also subject to change and WorkSafeBC has not reviewed this material for the purpose of ensuring it is aligned with our guidance. For the latest guidance, visit the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control for health information and see the latest news from the government of British Columbia.
The BC Construction Safety Alliance is the health and safety association established for B.C.’s construction industry. They have developed information and a number of resources to help employers manage the risk of COVID-19 exposure. This information includes:
- Resources and signage
- Mental health resources
- COVID-19 video conference Q&A with Regional Safety Advisors
- Information and useful links
- Frequently asked questions
- BCCSA message to members
The BC Construction Association has also developed information and guidance for the construction industry, including best practices for maintaining distance between workers for various job tasks and how to develop workplace policies around workers who are or may be ill.
In addition, the Provincial Health Officer has provided specific guidance to construction sites operating during COVID-19.
If you have a question or concern
Workers and employers with questions or concerns about workplace exposure to COVID-19 can call WorkSafeBC’s Health and Safety Information line at 604.276.3100 in the Lower Mainland (toll-free within B.C. at 1.888.621.SAFE). You’ll be able to speak to a prevention officer to get answers to your questions, and if required, a prevention officer will be assigned to assess the health and safety risk at your workplace.