April 9, 2021

On behalf of Chris Back, Director, OHS Consultation & Education Services

On Thursday April 8, 2021, the provincial health officer (PHO) announced an order delegating specific powers of the Public Health Act to WorkSafeBC prevention officers. The powers delegated to our prevention officers are limited to serving a closure order on a business with a known COVID-19 outbreak.

For clarity, decisions to close a business with Covid-19 transmission will be made by the medical health officer. The closure order will be in effect for a period of 10 days or more, as prescribed by the health authority’s medical health officer on a case-by-case basis, and served when directed to do so by a provincial medical health officer.

WorkSafeBC is providing this support to help the province manage the recent increase in COVID-19 cases. When serving the closure order, the WorkSafeBC prevention officer will engage the employer on a discussion regarding their COVID-19 safety plan and provide the employer with the Reviewing and Updating Your COVID-19 Safety Plan resource guide. The prevention officer will advise the employer that they should review and make improvements to their COVID-19 safety plan. Once the workplace has re-opened, the prevention officer will conduct an inspection to review the employer’s updated COVID-19 safety plan to ensure the employer is effectively implementing measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.

The increase in COVID-19 cases is an important reminder that all of us – employers, workers, industry, and stakeholders – have a shared responsibility to remain vigilant in supporting workplace health and safety during the pandemic.

For more information on the most recent PHO order and how to keep workplaces healthy and safe, please refer to the following:

The Ministry of Health noted the following in a Joint Statement:

“Workplaces continue to be sustained areas of transmission, clusters and outbreaks. These have strained public health resources to manage, so a new provincial health officer Expedited Workplace Closure order is being put in place to allow WorkSafeBC inspectors to support the work of public health and to support businesses when a COVID-19 outbreak occurs at the worksite.

“Starting Monday, when the public health investigation determines that transmission has occurred at the workplace, an order may be issued closing the workplace for 10 days or longer to stop the transmission. In the case of complex workplaces (e.g., large construction sites), the closure may be restricted to those parts of the workplace where transmission has occurred.

“Public health will also assess whether there is an overriding public interest to keep the workplace open. This would apply to such locations as police stations, fire halls, health-care facilities, schools, shelters, the ferry system, public transportation and distribution hubs of necessary goods such as food and medicine, pharmacies and grocery stores.

“When a closure is ordered, WorkSafeBC will serve the closure notice and will then support the workplace to review and enhance safety plans, as needed. A list of workplaces that have been closed and the date of their reopening will be posted on the health authority websites. In all cases additional outbreak control measures, including contact tracing and immunization will continue under public health direction.

“Work with employers and WorkSafeBC has been ongoing and will continue through the weekend in preparation of the coming into force of this order on Monday.