For many businesses and public services in B.C., shutting down during a pandemic may prove easier than starting back up again.
While some retailers, department stores, salons and restaurants began reopening today, others have yet to announce plans for reopening. A number of public libraries, art galleries, museums and community centre gyms in the Lower Mainland have yet to announce plans for reopening, despite the fact they are on the list of businesses and public services that were given the green light to start a phased reopening this week.
According to a recent Conference Board of Canada survey of employers in Canada, only 8% of respondents said they were fully ready to reopen and restart, even as government restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 begin to lift.
Some may struggle with recalling employees who were laid off, or who may be reticent about going back to work with the public, as long as there still is a risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus.
Others may still be trying to figure out what, exactly, they need to do in order to comply with new provincial guidelines on worker and customer safety.
For example, businesses may not be clear on whether customers or employees are required to wear face masks or other personal protective equipment. WorkSafeBC says masks are optional, not mandatory.
“Masks are not a requirement for businesses to reopen,” WorkSafeBC said in an email. “Employers and workers may choose to use masks as part of safe work practices for COVID-19.”
The BC government has outlined which businesses and services are allowed to restart as part of phase two, which officially started today. It includes restaurants, pubs, hair salons, and retail.
A full list is available on page 14 of the BC Restart Plan.
WorkSafeBC is responsible for ensuring that employers have the proper safeguards in place before reopening. That doesn’t mean that businesses need WorkSafeBC to conduct a site visit and sign off on their restart plans.
They do need to have a six-point plan in place, however. These plans do not need to be approved by WorkSafeBC but must be posted in the place of work. WorksafeBC may conduct inspections, but inspections are not required before a business reopens.
WorkSafeBC has industry specific guidelines for different sectors. Generally, employers must conduct a six point assessment, which includes assessing risks particular to the business or service, implementing protocols to deal with those risks and provide communication and training for employees so that the protocols are understood.
Detailed plans are available here.
Employers or employees who have questions or concerns can call WorkSafeBC and ask to speak to a prevention officer at 604-276-3100 (Lower Mainland), or 1-888-621-7233 outside the Lower Mainland.