Update: March 24, 2020

Staying Safe at Work

WorkSafeBC has provided updated guidelines for “staying safe at work” during the COVID-19 outbreak. These social distancing guidelines include:

Evaluate your work tasks and workspace

  • Can you reduce/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?
  • Can you position essential workers further apart from each other and customers and still get the tasks done?

Change the way space is used and shared at your workplace

  • Minimize the 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, the steering wheel, gear shift, and radio and for desks, the computer keyboard and mouse, desk surface, and phone.
  • Schedule rotating coffee and meal breaks to allow for 1-2 metres distance between workers in all break rooms, and do not share food or drink (no buffets).
  • Hold meetings by teleconference, video conference, or email only.
  • 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.

Working From Home

WorkSafeBC provided the following guidance to ensure safe remote working practices:

  • The employer should ensure it has a basic health and safety policy for working from home and that this is communicated to workers working remotely.
  • At a minimum, this policy should require employees to conduct an assessment of their workplace and report any hazards to their manager.
  • Other items to cover are protocols for emergency evacuation of the home, discussion of safe workplace practices, how to report any work-related incidents, and discussion of ergonomic considerations.
  • Some health and safety requirements will need to be administered in different ways for at-home staff, including: outlining the role of the worker’s supervisor, determining how the employer will follow-up on reported incidents.

Other Updates

WorkSafeBC has granted short-term extensions on any occupational first aid, or equivalent certificates, that are due to expire between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020. These certificates will now be acceptable in the workplace for 90 days beyond their original expiry date.

The BC Government published guidelines for construction sites and social distancing here.

Claims Questions

WorkSafeBC also provided guidance for COVID-19 and injury claims, including:

  • When a worker contracts COVID-19 as a direct result of their employment, they are entitled to compensation. This means the nature of the worker’s employment created a risk of contracting the disease significantly greater than the ordinary exposure risk of the public at large (e.g. acute care hospital worker). See more on this in our previous guide
  • Where an employee is on modified duties or a graduated return-to-work through WorkSafeBC and the employer shuts down, WorkSafeBC will pay the employee wage-loss benefits if they are not being paid by the employer.
  • WorkSafeBC does not provide coverage for people who are symptom-free even when quarantined, self-isolating or sent home on a precautionary basis.

Review or Appeal of WorkSafeBC decisions

Where your ability to review or appeal a decision of WorkSafeBC within the timelines required has been affected by COVID-19 please seek legal advice or request an extension from the Review Division or WCAT as special circumstances may warrant an extension.

Note to our Readers: Information regarding COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. We are working to bring you up-to-date articles as the legal issues unfold. This is not legal advice. If you are looking for legal advice or are dealing with an issue in relation to COVID-19, please contact our Employment & Labour Group: Chris Drinovz at cdd@kswlawyers.wpengine.com, Mike Weiler mweiler@kswlawyers.wpengine.com, or Melanie Booth at mdb@kswlawyers.wpengine.com.

Visit us here: https://www.ksw.bc.ca/employment-law/