Staying safe at work
Appropriate preventative measures should be in place for workers who continue to work during the COVID-19 outbreak. Below are some workplace protections to consider.
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, the pages in this section provide 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 these pages, 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.
Respirators are currently only required for certain tasks.
The BC CDC advises that surgical/procedure masks should be used by sick people to prevent transmission to other people. A mask will help keep a person's droplets in.
They also advise that it may be less effective to wear a mask in the community when a person is not sick themselves. Masks may give a person a false sense of security and are likely to increase the number of times a person will touch their own face (e.g., to adjust the mask).
Workers in the health care sector may have a higher potential risk of coming into contact with infected persons. Health care workers should wear surgical masks, eye protection, gloves, and gowns in order to protect themselves and patients. During health care procedures in which aerosol sprays may be generated (for example, when giving certain inhaled medications), health care workers must wear specialized masks (e.g., N95s).
Physical distancing requires us to make changes to our everyday routines and to minimize close contact with others. This means keeping approximately 2 metres distance between ourselves and others. You may need to limit the number of workers on site, to ensure these distances are kept.
Here are some tips for implementing physical distancing measures in your workplace:
Evaluate your work tasks and workspace
- Can you reduce or suspend non-essential work, to allow some workers to stay home?
- Can any of your workers perform work tasks remotely (e.g. work from home)?
- Can you alternate and/or add additional shifts to reduce the risk of exposure and improve physical distancing?
- Can you position the workers who are performing your essential business tasks further apart and still get the tasks done?
- Can any of your workers perform work tasks in a location that allows them to put more distance between themselves and their co-workers or customers?
Involve your joint health and safety committee
- Get your joint health and safety committee (or worker representative) involved in brainstorming physical distancing measures that could work in the spaces they work in.
- Have your joint committee consider the interactions they have with others.
- Get your joint committee involved in promoting approved physical distancing measures.
Change the way space is used and shared at your workplace
- Minimize sharing of office space, including work vehicles. When you do share, clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces before you leave the space (like you do at the gym). For vehicles, this includes the steering wheel, gear shift, and radio. For desks this includes the computer keyboard and mouse, desk surface, and phone.
- Schedule rotating coffee and meal breaks to allow for 2 metres distance between workers in all break rooms, and do not share food or drink (no buffets).
- Cancel in-person meetings and hold meetings by teleconference, video conference, or email instead.
- Use work vehicles as satellite offices, for workers who can download work on their phone or portable computer.
- Field workers should muster from home, rather than from an office, where feasible.
- Make the message clear that the friendliest thing your workers can do for their co-workers and customers is keep a distance of 2 metres between themselves and the people they work with.
- Encourage workers to use a standard greeting with each other that is positive but reminds others to keep a safe distance.
Protecting mental health
Workers in the workplace may also be affected by the anxiety and uncertainty created by the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s important to remember that mental health is just as important as physical health, and to take measures to support mental well-being. Here are some resources that can assist with maintaining mental health in the workplace during this time.
- COVID-19 Psychological First Aid Service: Information and Signup (British Columbia Psychological Association) – Free virtual counselling provided by registered psychologists.
- COVID-19: Staying Well In Uncertain Times (Canadian Mental Health Association – B.C.) – Tips and information on how to reduce and manage anxiety in the workplace due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Managing COVID-19 Stress, Anxiety and Depression (Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions) - Tips and resources on things we can do as individuals and collectively to deal with stress and support one another during these challenging times.
- Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak (World Health Organization) – These mental health considerations were developed by the WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Use as messages targeting different groups to support for mental and psychosocial well-being during COVID-19 outbreak.
- Mental Health and COVID-10 (Conference Board of Canada) – Videos on different aspects of mental health, including coping with anxiety, job loss, and dealing with isolation.
- Taking Care of Your Mental Health (COVID-19) (Public Health Agency of Canada) – Tips and resources for taking care of your mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak.
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, please see the health information from the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, the latest news from the government of British Columbia, and the latest orders from the Office of the provincial health officer.
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.