On January 7, 2022, BC’s Provincial Health Officer once again directed all BC employers to implement a COVID-19 Safety Plan. This is part of the province’s response to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations fueled by the Omicron variant.
The legal requirement to a COVID-19 Safety Plan is not new to employers. Employers were required to put such a plan in place in May 2020. The requirement was lifted on July 1, 2021 in favour of a more general Communicable Disease Prevention Plan. The re-introduction of the requirement to have a COVID-19 Safety Plan does not permanently absolve an employer from the requirement to have a Communicable Disease Prevention Plan, but for now, WorkSafeBC has advised that its compliance and enforcement activities will focus on the renewed requirement for a COVID-19 Safety Plan.
A Communicable Disease Prevention Plan outlines measures that reduce the risk of communicable diseases generally in the workplace. For more information, see our previous blog post. By contrast, a COVID-19 Safety Plan deals specifically with the risk from COVID-19 to your workplace. As was the case with COVID-19 Safety Plans, the oversight and enforcement of Communicable Disease Prevention Plans rests with WorkSafeBC. However, while the requirement to have a COVID-19 Safety Plan varies with the enforceability of the Public Health Order requiring them, the legal requirement to have a Communicable Disease Prevention Plan finds root in WorkSafeBC’s interpretation of section 21 of the Workers Compensation Act, and thus is likely to remain even post-pandemic.
In re-introducing their COVID-19 Safety Plan, employers should pay special attention to provisions around self-isolation and testing. Public Health’s guidance on testing and self-monitoring – particularly for fully vaccinated individuals experiencing minor symptoms - has changed. Requiring a worker to obtain a negative COVID-19 test prior to return to work may no longer be reasonable or realistic given the changing approach to testing. Similarly, requiring a vaccinated worker to remain home from work for 10 days following the onset of symptoms may go beyond what Public Health requires. Employers should review their COVID-19 Safety Plans to ensure they remain reasonable vis-à-vis Public Health’s changed approach to testing and self-isolation.
For more information about the requirement to have a COVID-19 Safety Plan or a Communicable Disease Prevention Plan or for assistance in drafting yours, please reach out to a member of our Occupational Health and Safety Group or our Labour, Employment & Human Rights Groups.
Michelle’s practice focuses on compliance, primarily in the area of Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S). She advises clients on their regulatory obligations and represents them in related administrative and litigation ...
Miny is an associate in the Labour, Employment and Human Rights Group in Vancouver. She practices in all aspects of workplace law including employment standards complaints, human rights issues, labour grievances, workplace ...
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