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COVID-19 prevention

PHO requires employers to re-activate COVID-19 Safety Plans

On January 7, 2022, the provincial health officer (PHO) announced an order requiring employers to re-activate their COVID-19 Safety Plans.

This replaces the previous requirement for employers to have communicable disease prevention plans in their workplaces. While communicable disease prevention plans and COVID-19 Safety Plans share some of the same fundamental principles, COVID-19 Safety Plans are formal, written plans with more rigorous controls and are more appropriate for periods of elevated risk, such as the one currently faced by B.C. workplaces by the Omicron variant. 

Re-activating your COVID-19 Safety Plan

COVID-19 Safety Plans provide employers with important measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission at their workplace. All employers are required to develop or update their COVID-19 Safety Plans to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in their workplace.

Many employers had COVID-19 Safety Plans earlier in the pandemic, and others may have maintained all or many of the measures from their COVID-19 Safety Plans. All employers are advised to review their COVID-19 Safety Plans to ensure that they are current and aligned with all guidance and orders from the provincial health officer.

Resources to help you re-activate or implement your plan

 

Additional orders and guidance

Below you will find some of the key public health guidance that may relate to your workplace, but please consult the complete list of orders, notices, or guidance issued by the provincial health officer for a full understanding of the measures that may be required.

Gyms, fitness centres, and other indoor exercise and fitness facilities are permitted to open effective January 20, 2022, provided they follow the additional measures outlined in the “Exercise and fitness” section on the provincial restrictions website.

Updated January 18, 2022: The following restrictions remain in place under the orders for Food and Liquor Serving Premises and Gatherings and Events until February 16. The PHO will assess if further action is necessary at that time. 

As of December 20, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.

  • Indoor personal gatherings including in rental and vacation properties are limited to the household plus 10 visitors or 1 other household, whichever is greater. Everyone aged 12 and older must be fully vaccinated.
  • At restaurants, cafes, and pubs, customers must stay seated and cannot move between or visit other tables. Masks are required when not seated. Physical distancing or barriers must be in place between tables.
  • All sports tournaments are not allowed, except for high performance athletes.

As of December 22, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.

  • Indoor organized gatherings of any size are not allowed. This includes gatherings such as sponsored or ticketed parties, banquets, wedding and funeral receptions, and other celebrations.
  • Indoor events at venues are limited to 50% capacity. This includes events like concerts, sports, and movies. Casinos can operate at 50% seated capacity, including gaming positions. BC Vaccine Cards will be required and QR codes must be scanned at events.
  • Bars, nightclubs, and lounges that do not serve meals are closed.
  • Restaurants, cafes, and pubs can have a maximum of 6 people at each table. The existing requirements to stay seated with no mingling between tables, to wear masks when not seated, and to have physical distancing or barriers between tables remain in place.

Learn more about the measures.

By order of the provincial health officer (PHO), masks are required in all public indoor settings for all people born in 2016 or earlier (5+). For more information, see PHO province-wide restrictions and PHO order: Face coverings (COVID-19) (updated December 3).

See the PHO and Ministry of Health's joint statement regarding a new variant of concern (VOC), Omicron.

Employers may also wish to review our information on responding to elevated risk, which includes links to other PHO orders, and additional measures.

Order Applicable sectors
Workplace safety Employers, workers
Food and Liquor Serving Premises Restaurants, coffee shops, cafes, bars, pubs, lounges, nightclubs, and other establishments that serve food or liquor to the general public
Gatherings and Events Organizers of events
Agricultural Temporary Foreign Workers The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries
Overnight Camps for Children or Youth Persons who operate overnight camps for children and youth
Industrial Camps Persons who employ workers in the agricultural, aquacultural, forestry and resource sectors or who provide accommodation for them in an industrial camp or other congregate setting, including a motel, hotel, lodge, or tents
Overview of Visitors in Long-Term Care and Seniors’ Assisted Living Long-term care and seniors’ assisted living facilities
COVID-19 Vaccination Status Information and Preventive Measures Order Long-term care facilities, private hospitals, standalone extended care hospitals, and assisted living residences
Public Health Communicable Disease Guidance for K-12 Schools
Provincial COVID-19 Communicable Disease Guidelines for K-12 Settings
K-12 education
Guidance for Holding Low-Risk Worship Services Faith-based services
Residential Care Staff COVID-19 Preventative Measures Persons who operate or provide housing in long term care facilities, private hospitals, stand alone extended care hospitals designated under the Hospital Act, assisted living residences which provide regular assistance with activities of daily living, provincial mental health facilities
Hospital and Community (Health Care and Other Services) COVID-19 Vaccination Status Information and Preventive Measures  Employers, contractors, workers, and service providers in long-term care facilities; private hospitals; standalone extended care hospitals; assisted living residences; hospitals; and community health care locations such as public health clinics, laboratories, and private home care
Face Coverings (COVID-19) British Columbians and visitors to British Columbia except to persons to whom the COVID-19 Vaccination Status Information and Preventive Measures Order applies when the person is in a facility
Post-secondary Institution Housing COVID-19 Preventive Measures
Post-secondary institution housing

Frequently asked questions

What do I have to do to keep my workers safe in light of the spread of the Omicron variant?

Employers are expected to implement communicable disease control measures to keep workers healthy and safe. Part of those measures should include responding to situations of elevated risk identified by public health, and taking steps identified by public health to address those risks. The increased spread of COVID-19 through the more transmissible Omicron variant is a situation of elevated risk.

On January 7, 2022, the provincial health officer announced an order requiring employers to re-activate their COVID 19 safety plans. This includes reviewing existing procedures and worker protections; where needed, enhancing those protections to the extent practicable; and communicating with workers to ensure they understand their role in minimizing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

I have been continuing to use my COVID-19 safety plan as a guide since the beginning of the pandemic. Is that sufficient? Is there anything new to do?

Employers should revisit their COVID-19 safety plans to review the protections put in place and ensure they align with current guidance from the provincial health officer and current measures and workplace considerations. Review the COVID-19 Safety Plan template to ensure your plan is up-to-date.

What can I do to both maintain operations and manage workplace health and safety if I have a number of workers absent due to COVID-19?

Although employers may face challenges operating with a reduced workforce, they must continue to protect the health and safety of workers who remain at work.

Employers must:

  • Be aware of and ensure that workers are not asked to perform work activities that they are not trained or qualified to perform.
  • Consider if your workers are becoming too fatigued or overwhelmed to perform their work tasks safely.
  • Consider whether workers are trained, rested, and properly supervised as they normally would be.
  • Ensure you are able to perform daily or routine maintenance or inspections that would reveal health and safety concerns
  • Consider what aspects of your business can continue to operate safely with reduced or untrained or new staff. Remember that if you are hiring replacement new workers you have obligations to ensure that they receive new worker training.

Are workers or members of the public required to wear masks in the workplace?

COVID-19 Safety Plans include a number of measures that may be used at a workplace to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, including the use of masks in certain circumstances. In addition, employers are advised to follow the direction of Public Health with respect to the use of masks in the workplace. This may include guidance, requirements, or recommendations for both workers and members of the public.

How can I manage ventilation in a building that I don’t own?

Employers should discuss the ventilation system in their building with property managers or owners to ensure that it is properly maintained and functioning appropriately. Employers can also take other measures to improve air circulation, including opening windows where possible. Learn more by reading COVID-19 frequently asked questions: General ventilation and air circulation.

Can I require a worker to be vaccinated as a condition of employment?

As every workplace is different, employers should seek advice when considering a mandatory vaccination policy, as they will need to balance workplace health and safety with privacy, labour, and employment issues.

Are there industry specific protocols available for COVID-19 prevention during this period of elevated risk?

Many basic principles for maintaining worker health and reducing the risks of COVID-19 apply to workers in all workplaces and are outlined on this page and in the COVID-19 Safety Plan. You can also find industry-specific protocols on our website to find more specific protocols that may be used by employers depending on the particular circumstances of their workplace.

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.