BC employers may begin to transition away from posting a copy of a COVID-19 safety plan at their workplace towards a broader communicable disease prevention approach.
A communicable disease is an illness caused by an infectious agent or its toxic product that can be transmitted in a workplace from person to person. Examples of communicable diseases that may circulate in tourism and hospitality workplaces include COVID-19, norovirus and seasonal influenza.
Employers can learn more about the workplace requirements to implement communicable disease prevention under the Workers Compensation Act in OHS Guideline G-P2-21 Communicable disease prevention. Although there is no longer a requirement to maintain a documented plan, employers may find it helpful to use WorkSafeBC’s Communicable Disease Prevention page (including new guide for employers) as well as go2HR’s CDPP Checklist to record details of their communicable disease prevention controls.
As the province transitions away from COVID-19 safety plans, there is less prescription for workplaces. With support from the government, businesses may choose to continue with specific COVID-19 measures such as the Vaccine Card, COVID-19 Safety Plans, and mask requirements according to their unique environments and comfort levels. Doctor Henry recommends that employers maintain some of their current protocols, specifically those that do not negatively impact business operations.
The level of risk associated with communicable diseases may vary on a seasonal basis and may take place at a local or regional level, or in a particular workplace. Therefore, workplaces need to assess the level of risk of communicable disease and plan accordingly.
During periods of elevated risk, the regional or provincial health officer will provide guidance and information about the risk and how to reduce it, prompting employers to re-introduce additional safety measures for a prescribed period of time. Be sure to continuously monitor and review communicable disease-related information issued by the regional and provincial health officers related to your industry, region, and/or workplace and be ready to implement measures when risk is elevated.
The majority of measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic are no longer required for most workplaces. However, employers should implement safe practices, hygiene etiquette, cleaning procedures, and adequate ventilation to prevent the spread of communicable diseases in the workplace.
Sick leave policy
A sick leave policy will provide workers with appropriate guidelines on what to do if they become sick with a communicable disease. The policy should also include a process on how to remain vigilant of workers with symptoms and provide them with clear steps on what workers should do if they are sick or become sick while in the workplace.
It is important that workers have adequate hand-washing facilities available throughout the worksite. Depending on the size and nature of your operation, you may want to consider hand sanitizing stations being available throughout your workplace as well.
You may decide to put together a policy or statement that communicates support for workers receiving vaccinations.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
Making sure that your workplace is regularly cleaned and sanitized is a great way to prevent transmission on an ongoing basis. Make sure to train workers in WHMIS for any new or changing chemicals used in the workplace.
Provide adequate ventilation and make sure that heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems are designed, operated, and maintained as per standards and specifications for ongoing comfort for workers. Ensure preventative maintenance is conducted (for example, regular filter changes and inspection of critical components),and the system is properly balanced in terms of air flow, temperature, pressure, etc.
Ensure that all workers receive and understand information about measures, practices and policies regarding communicable disease prevention in the workplace. Promote hygiene, a clean environment, safe work practices and safety culture.
Encourage workers to follow safety practices by setting an example and providing them with specific guidelines and information about what is expected of them if they become sick with a communicable disease. Having additional measures will help workers feel safer and most comfortable while doing their job. Encourage participation from workers to provide feedback about the suggested measures and make sure they understand the importance of staying home if they are feeling sick. Here are some posters that can be used in the workplace:
- Prevent the Spread of Communicable Diseases in the Workplace Poster
- Protect yourself and others from Influenza
- Prevent the Spread of Communicable Disease: Handwashing
- Prevent the spread of communicable disease: cover coughs and sneezes
- Prevent the spread of communicable disease: How to use a mask
- Masks are mandatory in this workplace
- Stay home if you are sick
- Information for employers and businesses
Ensure that all workers understand these measures and post the policies, practices and measures in your health and safety bulletin board and in places where it is easily accessible for workers to read.
As things continue to unfold, employers should keep an eye on new updates, orders and recommendations from public health. Be sure to review your workplace communicable disease prevention program, assess your workplace risk level and make changes accordingly.
Implement workplace inspections and supervision to ensure measures are functioning properly, followed and maintained.
Make sure workers know how to raise health and safety concerns and work with the joint health and safety committee, or safety representative to resolve and identify safety issues.
go2HR is offering a complimentary consultation and review service for communicable disease plans to BC employers in the tourism and hospitality industry. Click here to register and learn more.