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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. 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 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. Below is some guidance on how retail operations can do so.

Food businesses

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 website includes information for businesses on how COVID-19 may be spread in these workplaces, how physical distancing can be applied to both customers and workers in various roles, sanitation, and managing ill employees.

It also includes information for food service workers to help them reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19, as well as information for farmers markets, food banks, and food safety for the public.

The provincial health officer has also provided guidance to retail food and grocery stores operating during COVID-19.

Malls, shops and stores

The BC Centre for Disease Control also has a website for grocery stores, restaurants and other food premises website to provide COVID-19 guidance to malls, shops and stores.

The website includes measures that malls, shops and stores can take to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, on topics such as cleaning; space considerations to encourage physical distancing; hand hygiene; communication to customers, clients, members, and employees; employees who feel unwell; and public gatherings.

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.

On April 25, 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 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.