The Fort St. John Chamber of Commerce held its weekly roundtable May 14, inviting local businesses to share their concerns and ideas surrounding the economic impacts of COVID-19.
WorkSafeBC BC Director of OHS Consultation and Education Services Chris Black hosted a presentation on implementing measures to prevent the spread of the virus and how businesses can adjust.
Hierarchy of controls
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Black introduced a scale of controls employers can follow to reduce risk.
Elimination or substitution sits at the top of the scale, meaning that where possible employees should be sent home to work remotely.
Next is engineering, which includes plexiglass shields found in retail stores such as supermarkets, gas stations, and other businesses that can only be conducted in-person.
Administrative controls are next in the hierarchy, and refer to education and training along with updated company policies.
“These require the behaviours of individuals to make it work,” said Black, noting administrative controls vary in effectiveness depending on a worker’s understanding and willingness to follow policy.
Personal protective equipment is the last control on the scale, referring to mask, gloves, and other items.
“People often jump to PPE as a control measure, but it’s the least effective of all the measures,” said Black, noting employers should consider other controls first.
Control plans recommended
Black also cleared up misconceptions about B.C.’s restart plan. Employers looking to reopen are not required to submit plans with WorkSafeBC, but continue to follow provincial orders.
“Having a plan before you open your doors is important, and there’s an expectation to have one in place,” said Black, noting if an officer inspects a worksite, employers must be able to produce a plan.
Social distancing continues to be a hot topic, and how businesses can continue to operate under provincial health orders.
Two-metre distancing remains key in fighting the virus, to minimize transmission through droplet infection, said Black.
Cleaning and disinfecting are the next best tools, said Black, and stressed that disinfecting is not effective without cleaning first.
Personal hygiene is also crucial, and workers should wash their hands frequently with soap or use hand sanitizer when handwashing is not available. Workers should avoid touching their face, as well as not sharing food or drink.
Workers who experience flu-like symptoms should be sent home until they’re better, said Black. Self-assessment tools are available online or by dialing 8-1-1.
“We really do put that direction to the healthcare system, and the public health office,” said Black, of when sick employees can return to work.
He further added that the best tool employers can use to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to follow the guidance of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Claim services continue to be provided through WorkSafeBC, said Black, with the exception of physiotherapy and other treatment providers not being available due to the virus.
“In terms of COVID claims, there’s a lot of questions on whether they’re acceptable,” said Black, noting claims still require proof they occurred at the workplace.
Email reporter Tom Summer at firstname.lastname@example.org.