In the ongoing fight against COVID 19 and in particular in response to the recent surge in cases, the BC Provincial Health Officer has announced new workplace closure powers. These were announced on April 8 and are in effect as of April 12. The order authorizes British Columbia WorkSafeBC officers to operate under the Public Health Act, and specifically gives them the power to close businesses where COVID-19 transmission is shown to have occurred. Dr. Henry stated that the order has been made as workplaces continue to be areas where COVID-19 is spreading.
The announcement by Dr. Henry seemed to indicate that some essential workplaces would be exempt from the order. The specifics of the order are not yet available but from the announcement it is apparent that the order will apply when there are three or more employees with COVID-19 at a workplace and a determination by public health officers has been made that transmission is occurring. WorkSafeBC officers will have authority to test and investigate how transmission may have occurred. If a determination is made that transmission has occurred there will be authority to close the workplace for 10 days or longer to limit the spread of the virus. The order will also give WorkSafeBC officers the power to review and enhance the safety plans of the affected workplace. The requirement for COVID-19 safety plans has been in place for months. This new order should be seen as a warning to employers to ensure that their safety plans are in place and are being followed. Workplaces should anticipate WorkSafeBC inspections and in particular inspections to ensure that the safety plan is in place if there is any outbreak in the workplace. Given the new order, workplaces are encouraged to review their safety plans and revise as appropriate. Help on developing your safety plan can be accessed on the WorkSafeBC site here.