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Retail and COVID-19 safety

These protocols provide guidance to employers who have continued to operate through the COVID-19 pandemic in the retail industry. These employers may also benefit from reviewing the Phase 2 retail protocols for re-opening businesses. 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 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:

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.

Controlling the risk of COVID-19 transmission

Employers must take all necessary precautions to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission and illness to themselves, workers, and others at the workplace.

The provincial health officer’s order on gatherings and events does not apply to customers in a mall or retail establishment when engaged in shopping activities or seeking services or individuals attending an episodic vending market such as a Farmers Market or a Community Market, which are subject to the order on vending markets.

Please see our full protocols for the Retail industry.

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 provincial health officer issued COVID-19 Guidance to Retail Food and Grocery Stores to help employers reduce the risk of transmission. It provides clarity on the number of people who can be permitted in a store at one time, as well as guidance and best practices for physical distancing, sanitation, and hygiene.

The BC Centre for Disease Control has developed a website for grocery stores, restaurants and other food premises to provide guidance to workers and employers on COVID-19.

The following associations also have a number of resources to assist retail employers in managing the risk of COVID-19 exposure:

Other resources:

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.