Health care and COVID-19 safety
These protocols provide guidance to employers in the health care industry. These employers may also benefit from reviewing protocols developed for health professions, in-person counselling and 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. For additional information, also see:
- COVID-19 and returning to safe operation for information on developing a safety plan, including a template for a COVID-19 Safety Plan
- Our COVID-19 Safety Plan OHS Guideline, which includes information on the level of detail required and using supporting documentation
- Reviewing and updating your COVID-19 safety plan: A guide for employers, which will help you ensure your plan continues to be effective and functioning properly
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 and posted to the website, if there is one. During a WorkSafeBC inspection, we will ask employers about the steps they have taken to protect their workers and to see their plan. To learn more, read Inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ensuring worker safety
Prevention officers are working with health care providers and others to support the direction of provincial and federal public health agencies in reducing the risk of COVID-19 exposure to health care workers. WorkSafeBC continues to engage in education, consultation and inspection activities to ensure health care employers are complying with OHS Requirements, orders and direction from the Provincial Health Officer, the Ministry of Health, and public health agencies.
- WorkSafeBC has maintained regular contact with the OHS Directors of the Provincial Health Authorities to ensure their infection control and pandemic plans are operational and meeting regulatory requirements.
- WorkSafeBC is engaging with health care facilities, focusing initially on the long-term care sector and broadening to other sectors. These engagements are focused on ensuring health care employers identify hazards and associated COVID-19 risks, evaluating the impact on workers, and taking reasonable precautions to control these risks.
- WorkSafeBC has engaged BC Emergency Health Services to ensure they are meeting their obligations for worker health and safety.
Controlling the risk of COVID-19 transmission
Health care employers must ensure that appropriate controls are in place to eliminate or minimize risk by developing and implementing exposure control plans to control the exposure to biological agents, including COVID-19. In workplaces, these plans typically form part of the infection control procedures that workers must follow to ensure that they are kept safe.
Health care employers must follow the direction of the Provincial Health Officer and the Ministry of Health on the provision and use of PPE, including respiratory protection. More information on how to properly use PPE can be found on the BC Centre for Disease Control website, while the latest direction of the Ministry of Health and Public Health Officer can be found on the Office of the Provincial Health Officer’s website.
Exposure control plans must consider both patient care and non-patient care areas and workers. It is imperative that these plans are communicated to and fully understood by workers, and that they continue to adapt as conditions evolve. Employers must also consult with Joint Health and Safety Committees and worker representatives on issues that impact worker safety.
Personal Protective Equipment
Ensuring the safety of health care workers is critical to BC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Health care employers must ensure appropriate PPE is provided to workers and train workers on the mode of transmission of COVID-19 and the correct use of the personal protective equipment (PPE).
The office of the provincial health officer has issued policies around Infection Prevention and Control for COVID-19. These policies will change as the situation evolves and must be consulted regularly for updates. The BC Centre for Disease Control website will also be an online resource to check in on regularly for updates.
- Health care facilities must comply with the policy issued on November 4, 2020 by the Ministry of Health on Mask Use in Health Care Facilities during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
- Health care workers must engage in a point of care risk assessment for every patient or client interaction.
- In acute care settings, health authorities must implement the infection prevention and control guidance for COVID-19 as published by the BC Centre for Disease Control and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
- In long term care settings, health authorities must implement the infection prevention and control guidance for COVID-19 as published by the BC Centre of Disease Control.
- Health authorities must implement all supplemental infection prevention and control guidance and resource materials for COVID-19 endorsed by the BC Ministry of Health.
It is vitally important that these approaches are adhered to so we can keep our health care workers safe and healthy during this time of unprecedented demand on our supply of PPE.
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 following agencies have developed COVID-19 resources specifically for health care professionals:
SafeCare BC is the Health and Safety Association for long-term care and home support workers in the province. They have a number of resources to assist employers in managing the risk of COVID-19 exposure, including a new Care for Caregivers resource to provide mental health support for health care providers. This initiative represents a partnership between the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division and SafeCare BC, and is proudly supported by the BC Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions.
If you have a question or concern
Health care workers with concerns about COVID-19 exposure should contact their manager, their joint occupational health and safety committee or worker representatives, their union reps, and their corporate health and safety department. Representatives from the relevant health authority and SafeCare BC may also have resources and information.
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.