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Retail and COVID-19 safety

WorkSafeBC is working with workers, employers, and industry associations to ensure retail operations remain healthy and safe during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Information on this page relates to retail operators who have continued to operate through the COVID-19 pandemic, but may also be helpful to those re-opening following a COVID-19 related closure. Similarly, retailers who have been in continuous operation may also refer to WorkSafeBC’s Retail and COVID-19 safety page, which includes protocols for re-opening businesses, to further strengthen the protocols and COVID-19 Safety Plan they already have in place.

We are providing information to workers and employers through worksite inspections focusing on the controls that the employer can use to limit exposure, including maintaining distance between workers and customers and ensuring adequate hygiene facilities. We are continuing to engage in inspection, consultation, and education activities to ensure everyone in the workplace is fulfilling their obligations.

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. If a formal plan is not already in place prior to operation, you are expected to develop it while protecting the safety of your workers.

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. We will continue to update this page, but you can also refer to COVID-19 and returning to safe operation for additional information, including a template for a COVID-19 Safety Plan.

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.

Controlling the risk of COVID-19 exposure

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.