On July 1, 2021, B.C. entered Step 3 of its 4-step restart plan to re-open the province following the COVID-19-imposed restrictions.
Step 3 involves moving from pandemic protocols to communicable disease prevention.
Employer requirements for communicable disease prevention
Employers are expected to take reasonable steps to manage health and safety in their workplace. This includes preventing communicable disease transmission. Workplaces include personal vehicles or company-owned vehicles when they are used for work.
In most cases, communicable disease plans do not need to be written, posted, or approved by WorkSafeBC.
Employers are encouraged to keep COVID-19 plans and protocols as reference. Most of the measures implemented at workplaces to manage the COVID-19 pandemic will no longer be required. It’s possible some of the same or similar measures may be required to manage communicable disease transmission in the workplace.
Components of a communicable disease prevention
The fundamental components of communicable disease prevention are:
- Implementing policies to support staff who may be sick with a communicable disease, so they can avoid being at the workplace
- Promoting hand hygiene by providing hand hygiene facilities with appropriate supplies
- Reminding employees through policies and signage to wash their hands regularly and to use appropriate hygiene practices
- Maintaining a clean environment through routine cleaning processes
- Ensuring building ventilation is properly maintained and functioning as designed
- Supporting employees in receiving vaccinations for vaccine-preventable conditions to the extent that you are able
- Implementing measures as required by a medical health officer or the provincial health officer to deal with communicable diseases in your workplace or region
Communicable disease prevention in the workplace involves four steps. They are:
- Understanding the level of risk
- Implementing appropriate measures
- Communicating policies and protocols, and
- Updating them as required.
Managing communicable disease at your workplace is part of an effective Occupational Health and Safety Program.
Public Health Office (PHO) recommends maintaining some current protocols
Some of the fundamental components of communicable disease prevention are similar to the measures employers have been following during the pandemic. Other protocols, like distancing and barriers, are not required in Step 3.
The PHO recommends employers consider maintaining some current COVID-19 Safety Plan protocols if they don’t negatively interfere with business operations. This allows for a transitional period and progression from a COVID-19 Safety Plan to a communicable disease plan.
For example, employers should consider retaining barriers that have been added to the workplace if they are not an impediment. This applies to vehicles.
Responding to increased risk
The level of risk of certain communicable diseases, including COVID-19, will increase from time to time. This may occur at a regional level or within a workplace. In these cases, employers will be advised by medical health officers or the provincial health officer of the measures they need to take to manage the risk.
Employers are required to monitor communicable disease information from their regional public health officials and the provincial health officer related to their area and industry. The information will guide additional measures that may be needed in their workplace.
Information and resources
Visit WorkSafeBC for more information and resources on communicable disease planning.