Assessing risk and applying appropriate controls
Recognizing workplaces are constantly changing, WorkSafeBC requires employers to continually assess the risk of COVID-19 transmission at their workplaces and to apply controls to control that risk. The process for assessing risk in the workplace and selecting appropriate controls is outlined in the COVID-19 Safety Plan. Employers need to stay vigilant and ensure their COVID-19 Safety Plans are understood and being followed through effective training and supervision.
The first and most important step to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission at any workplace is to implement policies to ensure that those who are sick are not entering in the workplace.
Employers are also instructed to apply the hierarchy of controls as an effective approach to COVID-19 safety. The hierarchy of controls is a system for controlling risk in the workplace that involves eliminating or reducing risks through controls ranked from the most effective and highest level of protection to lesser levels of protection.
- The highest level of control on the hierarchy is to ensure that workers are kept at least 2 metres apart from other workers and members of the public. This can be done by implementing work-from-home arrangements, establishing occupancy limits, rescheduling work tasks, rearranging work spaces and movement of people, or other means.
- Where physical distancing is not possible or cannot be applied consistently, the next level of control is the use of barriers if it is appropriate to the work task and the configuration of the workplace. Barriers must be designed, installed, and maintained correctly to be effective.
- Where physical distancing and barriers are not possible or cannot be consistently applied, the next level of control is masks. Masks should be required by workers for work processes and circumstances where those workers are interacting in close proximity to other workers or members of the public. Employers must ensure that masks are selected and used correctly.
- All of these measures must be supported by effective cleaning and hygiene practices, including handwashing, cough hygiene, and cleaning and disinfecting.
Considerations in the use of masks
- The use of masks does not mean that other protections, such as limiting access to the workplace, maintaining physical distancing, and barriers, are no longer necessary. An effective COVID-19 Safety Plan will most often include more than one type of control to reflect the unique characteristics of the workplace.
- The use of masks may be an additional control to supplement other measures and to ensure the risk is reduced as workers move around a dynamic and changing workplace. For example, workers who are behind barriers when performing a work task may need to wear masks when entering spaces outside of the barrier if physical distancing cannot be maintained in those spaces.
- WorkSafeBC’s jurisdiction extends to workers and employers, and as such, the use of masks by members of the public is guided and directed by public health. Where members of the public will come into proximity with workers, employers may require or promote the use of masks by members of the public as an additional layer of protection to those workers.