COVID-19 UPDATE: Recent PHO orders transitioning back to COVID-19 safety plans
Earlier in the pandemic, employers were asked to create and implement detailed COVID-19 safety plans. On July 1, 2021, those plans were replaced by a more general focus on Communicable Disease Prevention as the province began to reopen.
On January 7, 2022, the provincial health officer announced an order requiring employers to reinstate those site specific, prescriptive COVID-19 safety plans to address the elevated risk currently facing us with the Omicron variant. 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.
The COVID-19 safety plan will supersede the basic principles of communicable disease prevention during this period of elevated risk by incorporating more specific protocols for preventing COVID-19 transmission. These may include occupancy limits, physical distancing, and barriers.
What employers need to do
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.
With the involvement and participation of workers, employers should review and update their COVID-19 Safety Plans to ensure they remain effective at reducing the risk of exposure, including:
- Reviewing existing procedures and worker protections
- Where needed, enhancing those protections to the extent practicable
- Communicating with workers to ensure they understand their role in controlling the risk
If workers test positive for COVID-19, they need to follow the guidance of the BC Centre for Disease Control around taking care of themselves, self-isolating, and notifying close contacts.
Evidence shows that vaccination is the best control measure available to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to consider staff-vaccination policies based on their own due diligence.
Although employers may face challenges operating with a reduced workforce due to COVID-19 at times, they must continue to protect the health and safety of workers who remain at work. In times of staff shortages, employers should have a contingency or business continuity plan to ensure their business can continue to operate in a safe manner with consideration of factors such as level of training and supervision needed.
With this new order in place, and as part of WorkSafeBC’s regular inspectional work, WorkSafeBC Prevention Officers will look for updated COVID-19 safety plans at worksites.
What workers need to do
Workers play an important role in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 by participating in the review of the COVID-19 Safety Plan. Each worker should be aware of and follow their workplace health and safety responsibilities and protocols outlined in the plan, including guidance on self-managing COVID-19 symptoms as outlined by the BCCDC.
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.
For more information, see COVID-19 information for workers.
The BCFSC is actively monitoring the COVID-19 situation to determine how we can best support forestry workers, contractors and employers throughout BC. We continue to follow guidance from public health officials and will adjust and enhance our resources and information to ensure all necessary precautions are being taken to minimize the risks of COVID-19 transmission and illness to forest sector employees.
The safety of forest industry workers remains our top priority.
The Provincial Health Officer offers the most recent updates and information on COVID-19. Check the Government of BC website for the latest public health orders, restrictions and guidance.
Learn more about how WorkSafeBC is supporting the PHO Closure Order.
WorkSafeBC preparing for BC Restart Step 3 (June 28, 2021)
WorkSafeBC Workplace Closures and COVID-19 Inspections (May 6, 2021)
WorkSafeBC support for the PHO Closure Order (April 9, 2021)
WorkSafeBC provides COVID-19 health and safety resources to help keep workplaces safe.
Access workplace safety plans, exposure control plans, worker claim information, employers claim information and industry specific information for forestry.
LATEST WorkSafeBC Information:
Employers can apply to be reimbursed for up to three days of wages paid to workers for COVID-19-related sick leave. Learn more about how to apply for sick leave reimbursement.
WorkSafeBC COVID-19 Links
- NEW - WorkSafeBC COVID-19 Sick Leave Reimbursement Program for Employers
- WorkSafeBC COVID-19
- WorkSafeBC Forestry Industry Information
- COVID-19 Updates for Workers and Employers
- Health and Safety When Working from Home
- COVID-19 FAQs
- WorkSafeBC COVID-19 Safety Plan Checklist
- Designing Effective Barriers
- WorkSafeBC COVID-19 Forms and Resources
BCFSC & COVID-19
The BCFSC has assembled resources and information for the forestry sector to work safely. This information is catalogued by operational use based on the type of company you run.
BCFSC documents and resources have been developed for industry as guidelines and reference documents for employers and employees to use to help reduce spread of COVID-19. BCFSC developed documents will contain COVID-19 information relevant at the time the document was created. As information is updated regularly, the BCFSC encourages workers and employers to visit the BC Centre for Disease Control for personal health inquiries or visit WorkSafeBC for regulatory information relating to workplace safety.
Mental Health COVID-19 Links
- Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions – Managing COVID-19 Stress, Anxiety and Depression
- World Health Organization Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak
- Canadian Mental Health Association (Kelowna) – Coronavirus: Managing Stress & Anxiety
- Vancouver Island Counseling – Emotional Health and Wellbeing and the COVID-19 Virus
If you are unsure of which information you need to support your organization, the BCFSC is here to help. We have Safety Advisors all over BC who can help you put your plans into action.
Contact us with your questions.