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Transit and COVID-19 safety

These protocols provide guidance to employers in the transit industry. These employers may also benefit from reviewing protocols developed for transportation, office spaces, food service, and retail. Employers must also ensure they are abiding by any orders, notices, or guidance issued by the provincial health officer, and the appropriate health authority, which 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. This includes:

  • Developing and communicating policies prohibiting the following workers and others from entering the workplace. Refer to the WorkSafeBC posters advising workers and visitors of these policies.
    • Anyone who has had symptoms of COVID-19
    • Anyone who has travelled outside of Canada within the last 14 days
    • Anyone who has been identified by Public Health as a close contact of someone with COVID-19
    • Anyone who has been told to isolate by Public Health
  • Adjusting practices to encourage physical distancing, such as having some workers (e.g., dispatch, customer service, administration) work remotely wherever possible; staggering start times for drivers to prevent crowding at terminal locations; limiting in-person meetings and other gatherings such as morning huddles or modifying them to take place in open spaces or outside; encouraging workers not to shake hands.
  • Maintaining an up-to-date list of employees at the workplace.
  • Where job tasks require groups of workers to work routinely in proximity, consider creating cohorts, or small groups of workers that work together exclusively to reduce the risk of broader transmission to other workers. If possible, stagger start and finish times and split workers into groups, keeping the same groups together in order to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Consider dispatching different groups from different locations, which will reduce the number of workers that are impacted in the event of a suspected or confirmed case of the virus.
  • Develop hygiene and cleaning policies that include removing unnecessary shared items to facilitate cleaning; enhancing cleaning and disinfecting practices for high contact areas; incorporating end-of-shift wipe downs for all shared spaces; and ensuring workers are provided with appropriate supplies, like soap and water, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes.
  • Develop cleaning and disinfecting protocols for vehicles, ensuring that high contact areas are appropriately addressed. Ensure adequate time is allocated to cleaning vehicles.
  • Employers are required to provide access to washroom and hygiene facilities for anyone entering their workplace as part of their work, including delivery personnel. Workers who are stationed at remote locations need to be provided with access to an appropriate washroom and washing facilities to be able to maintain adequate hygiene. This may include mobile washrooms, soap and water, hand sanitizer, disinfectant solutions, and disinfectant wipes. Risk assessments should consider the fact that under normal circumstances, workers may have had access to facilities not directly linked to their employer, such as fast-food or retail outlets.
  • Workers tasked with cleaning must be appropriately trained, and any products used for cleaning and disinfecting must be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Modify protocols for workers and occupational first aid attendants who may have to perform first aid to fellow workers or riders during the COVID-19 pandemic. See OFAA protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic: A guide for employers and occupational first aid attendants.
  • If masks or other personal protective equipment are required by the employer’s safety plan, ensure they are used appropriately and available for use by workers at the time of their shift.
  • Ensure areas where passengers access leaflets, timetables, magazines, and newspapers from transit vehicles and vessels, public waiting areas, and walk-in-centres and shared workspaces are included in cleaning and sanitizing procedures.
  • Inform workers of the safety plans, protocols and steps that are being taken to protect them. Train them on new or adjusted protocols, and re-orient workers who have been absent from the workplace. See Best practices for orienting and training workers.
  • Where worker schedules and work locations can make it difficult to monitor and supervise workers, ensure there are effective procedures for supervising workers. See Supervising for health and safety.
  • If staff need to travel between workplaces in pool vehicles, maintain physical distance in vehicles wherever possible. Consider separate vehicles if possible. Larger vehicles may be able to accommodate physical distancing by using a seat configuration that maximizes distance between people. Consider grouping workers into small groups that travel together exclusively to reduce the risk of broader transmission.
  • Establish a mechanism for ensuring orders and guidance from the provincial health officer are communicated to passengers, including guidance around non-essential travel and travelling by public transportation if you have symptoms of COVID-19. Ensure these policies are broadly understood, posted as needed online and at locations that will help passengers understand these obligations, and provided in languages that will be understood by passengers.
  • Encourage customers to purchase fares online or at fare stations. Encourage the use credit cards and loyalty cards wherever possible and have customers scan or tap their cards and handle the card readers themselves. Encourage tap payment over pin pad use. If customers do pay with cash, establish hygiene practices that include washing or sanitizing hands after handling cash.
  • Assess occupancy limits for buildings, vehicles and other areas so that you can maintain physical distancing in these spaces. See Help prevent the spread of COVID-19: Occupancy limit.
  • Consider adjustments to trip schedules to ensure physical distancing can be maintained.
  • Consider increasing number of vehicles in circulation to enable less riders on each.
  • Consider assigning driver to a specific vehicle and avoiding drivers being designated multiple vehicles.
  • Consider providing access to hand-sanitizer for passengers to use before boarding the vehicle.
  • Where available and operationally possible, use rear doors for boarding and exiting. Where the front door is to be used for boarding, consider encouraging passenger to exit only though the rear door, reducing any potential crowding at the front of the vehicle. Consider using floor markings or window markings to direct passenger movement and create buffer zones around the operator.
  • Consider installing a physical barrier between the driver and passengers (plexiglass, vinyl or other non-porous material that can be cleaned), or modify existing protection barriers to offer increased protection to the operator. Ensure that any barriers installed do not interfere with the driver’s ability to see or access controls, and have been installed in a manner that does not create unintended hazards.
  • Promote extra space between passengers and operators, through the use of signs and posters not only on vehicles but at bus stops, transit loops and stations as well. Use floor markings as a means of maintaining physical distancing between the operator and the customer (e.g., red line).
  • Block out seats that are closest to the operator (e.g., jump seat) to allow physical distancing to be maintained. This may be done by using tape to create a barrier or by covering the seat. The appropriate signage should also be used.
  • Enhance cleaning protocols when transferring a vehicle from one worker to another. Ensure to clean high touch point areas like door handles, keys, steering wheels, switches, and in-vehicle communication devices. Cleaning protocols should be done both at the beginning of a driver’s shift and that the end.
  • Provide operators with hand hygiene supplies and sanitation kits including hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, cleaning spray and paper towels so that surfaces commonly touched by the operator and riders can be wiped down during on road changeovers. Operators should be training on safe use of any cleaning products and how to safely store and dispose of used supplies. This should include providing a secure means of storage on the bus, so that used cleaning supplies can be stored until the vehicle returns to the terminal.
  • Where recruitment and training of new transit operators continues during the pandemic, consideration should be given to the impact on worker safety during the training process. For example in scenarios where some of the training may be normally undertaken on a vehicle which is "in service" but physical distancing may not be possible.
  • Adapt procedures for potential vehicle stop incidents to ensure vehicles don’t fill up with people.
  • When assisting passengers, follow physical distancing measures if at all possible. If distance of 2 metres cannot be achieved and other control measures such as barriers cannot be used, the worker should position themselves behind the passenger wherever possible. Masks may also be considered to reduce the risk of transmission in these circumstances. Ensure that masks are selected and cared for appropriately and that workers are using masks correctly. Passengers may be asked to wear masks for these services to protect workers.
  • Wherever possible, limit the number of interactions between the operator and the passenger and avoid physical contact with passengers.
  • Consider having any conversations with the passengers prior to them boarding the vehicle, where physical distancing can be more easily maintained, and not to shake hands when greeting. This will reduce the risk of transmission due to passengers and worker when in close proximity.
  • Consider enhanced vehicle cleaning practices between passengers, for example, clean lift equipment, seat belts and other securement devices between each use. Consider enhanced hygiene practices in between passengers, for example, using hand sanitizer and ensuring to increase frequency of hand washing during breaks.
  • Develop a system for loading luggage that allows for the driver to maintain physical distancing from passengers. For example, designate an area and method for luggage drop off that allows for appropriate physical distancing and spread luggage out among all luggage bays to minimize contact between passengers retrieving bags.
  • Operators should thoroughly wash their hands or use hand sanitizer after fueling, visiting a public establishment or handling luggage.
  • The operator and any other workers should remain outside the vehicle to maintain physical distance from passengers as they load. Load the passengers onto the vehicle first, when possible, to maintain physical distancing between workers and passengers.
  • Load the vehicle from back to front, ensuring passengers maintain physical distancing.
  • The vehicles typically used on this type of journey may have many additional touch points such as curtains, seat back handles, seat back trays, seat back magazine nets and reading lights. Consider temporary removal of as many of these items as possible and implement enhanced cleaning practices where this is not possible.
  • Consider onboard washrooms if practical. Where onboard washrooms are used, post signage reminding passengers to employ good hygiene practices and ensure washrooms are cleaned and disinfected at the end of each trip.

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  • Consider reducing occupancy limits for vessel, shared spaces and elevators. See Help prevent the spread of COVID-19: Occupancy limit.
  • In pre-embarkation areas for foot or vehicle passengers (e.g., waiting areas, check-in, walkways), ensure physical distancing with floor markings and signage.
  • Encourage use of manual/automatic check-in kiosks.
  • Consider installing barriers (plexiglass, vinyl) at check-in and customer service desks.
  • Encourage vehicle passengers to remain in vehicles, unless essential (e.g., use of washroom).
  • During voyages, ensure there is clear communication with passengers of ferry protocols regarding where they can stay (e.g., in vehicles) and when and how to access facilities such as washrooms.
  • Ensure physical distancing is supported onboard by providing signage and floor markings for walkways, and seat spacing.
  • Ensure areas where passengers access leaflets, timetables, magazines, and newspapers from transit vehicles and vessels, public waiting areas, and walk-in-centres and shared workspaces are included in cleaning and sanitizing procedures.
  • Consider administrative or operational practices and adjust shift times, break times, use of break rooms to ensure physical distancing and reduces shared spaces.
  • At the time of booking, encourage riders to only use transit for essential trips and remind them of current public health officer guidance about non-essential travel and the concerns about travel to remote, First Nations, or smaller communities.
  • Inform the passenger of the additional precautions being taken (e.g., reduced occupancy, seating restrictions) and any additional travel requirements, during booking.
  • Consider where maximum capacity may vary depending on the nature of the booking. The physical distancing requirements for a group of individuals such as a sports team, who don’t live together, will be different to those required for a family group where a number of people will be able to be seated together. Limit the numbers of workers in control centres and dispatch locations to ensure physical distancing can be maintained and exposure to co-workers is minimized.
  • Consider relocating the control centre away from the main facility or having mobile dispatch centres where operators can collect paperwork, running boards and other equipment.
  • Consider the use of alternative dispatch procedures such as operators calling in or checking schedules online if possible.
  • Adjust work practices so workers won’t need to use multiple work stations/desks. Switch the function of the work station, not the worker.
  • Consider supplying workers with assigned equipment. For example, head set, and handheld radios.
  • Control centres may pose an additional risk especially where workers usually move from one workstation to another, either to perform a different task or to cover for someone in their absence. These risks should be identified and addressed. This may include the use of plexiglass barriers, enhanced cleaning practices or modifying working practices to reduce worker movement.
  • Enhance cleaning protocols for all high touch point areas. This includes workstations, keyboards, seats, arm rests, handheld radios.
  • To protect both workers and passengers, consider how COVID-19 related changes will impact boarding and exiting at various parts of the transit system. Consider increasing the time transit vehicles are stationary at stops or platforms to discourage rushing and enable physical distancing to be more easily maintained when entering or exiting the vehicle.
  • Identify areas where physical distancing could be an issue, such as bus terminals, rapid transit stations/platforms or customer service facilities and address the risk. Appropriate physical distancing measures should be implemented to protect workers. This may include measures like holding customers outside of the station (where it may be easier to ensure physical distancing) or using barriers, signs and floor markings on platforms.
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of all high touch surfaces at terminals, stations, stops and platforms. For example, handrails, fare collection systems, turnstiles, door handles, vending machines, garbage handles, benches, seats, emergency cabinets, emergency phones, etc.
  • Consider increasing levels of staffing at stations and on platforms to promote physical distancing guidelines and ensure adequate security/crowd control can be maintained. If this cannot be done, consider the use of barriers, or, where those are not practicable, consider masks.
  • Ensure workers who are expected to manage customer line-ups have received adequate training on how to handle a potential COVID-19 exposure situation and have been advised of and trained on the employer’s expectations on how to respond to customers who are unwilling to follow or who do not understand the employer’s protocols.
  • With reduced ridership, consider where transit security workers can monitor the workplace remotely via cameras, without being in close proximity to riders and workers.
  • Consider providing workers with hand hygiene supplies and sanitation kits including hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, cleaning spray and paper towels.
  • For frontline roles in the transit system, such as transit police and field supervisors, where physical contact may be unavoidable, workers should be provided with adequate protection. This may include gloves, masks, and face shields to protect them from the increased risk of transmission.
  • Provide extra supplies of personal protective equipment and a change of clothing to transit police workers to use in the event of clothing becoming contaminated during close interaction with passengers. A proper means of storage and disposable of such items also needs to be available.
  • Where transit workers such as inspector or transit police regularly need to work in groups of two or more, consider altering shift schedules in order to routinely pair the same workers together for the entire shift.
  • Transit system frontline workers should be made aware of the increased risks of transmission. Training on the additional risks of exposure and the proper protocols for dealing with the risk should also be provided.
  • For roles such as field supervisors, transit inspectors, station staff and transit police, assign vehicles to staff for entire shift, or assign vehicle to same group of staff, where possible. This can help to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
  • Where the use of common facilities such as locker rooms or equipment stores cannot be avoided, implement occupancy limits to control the number of people in the space at the same time.
  • For transit police and security officers, if there is an increased risk of transmission through utility belts or other equipment like radios enhanced cleaning, disinfecting and handling processes should be implemented. Equipment should be cleaned at the start and end of each shift and training on any enhanced protocols should also be provided.
  • Consider scheduling teams or groups of maintenance workers on the same shift patterns.
  • Consider dedicated working areas for maintenance personnel such as mechanics so that physical distancing can be maintained.
  • Implement the use of drop off zones and return to service zones for transit vehicles, in order to limit the physical contact between maintenance workers and operators.
  • Implement enhanced hygiene practices that address the needs of your workplace and provide adequate training to workers on any new requirements. For example, mechanics and vehicle cleaning crews should be trained on removing, and safely disposing of work wear and personal protective equipment before leaving the work area to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
  • Provide a safe place for cleaning crews to dispose of used sanitizing wipes and any other personal protective equipment they may use.
  • Ensure shared tools and equipment are covered in the cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
  • Implement a process for ensuring vehicles are suitably cleaned and disinfected before a worker begins to work on the vehicle, and before they are returned to service.

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.

If you have a question or concern

Workers and employers with questions or concerns about workplace exposure to COVID-19 can call WorkSafeBC’s Prevention 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.