Understanding The New WorkSafe Regulations for Retail and Health Care Workers

Phase 2 of the fight against COVID-19 began on Tuesday, May 19 with some businesses and health care services being allowed to reopen to the public. Whether you are back at work, waiting to go back, or if you have been at a worksite that has remained open, WorkSafeBC has created new regulations and guidelines that retailers and health care professionals must follow going forward.

To help you understand the new regulations and to make sure that your workplace is doing everything it needs to do to keep you, your coworkers, and your customers safe, here is a guide to the new regulations.

COVID-19 Safety Plan

Your workplace must have a COVID-19 safety plan in place in order to be open for business in Phase 2 of the pandemic, and it must be posted at the workplace. In creating this safety plan, your workplace must involve the Joint Operational Health and Safety Committee (JOHSC). Your input into this plan helps to protect the health and safety of you and your coworkers, and it is your right to be involved. If you’d like to join your JOHSC, contact your union steward or union rep.

For members of a JOHSC, you can use WorkSafe’s six-step COVID-19 Safety Plan tool to help develop your workplace’s safety plan

If you have been asked to do something at work that you believe is unsafe, please follow the correct procedure to refuse unsafe work.

Levels of Protection

There are four levels of protection for people who are working with the public. The first level represents the highest level of protection, and the fourth the lowest – always use the highest levels possible.

  • First level protection (elimination): Use policies and procedures to keep people at a safe physical distance from one another. Limit the number of people in your workplace at any one time, and implement protocols to keep workers at least 2 metres from other workers, customers, and members of the public.
  • Second level protection (engineering controls): If you can’t always maintain physical distancing, install barriers such as plexiglass to separate people.
  • Third level protection (administrative controls): Establish rules and guidelines, such as cleaning protocols, telling workers to not share tools, or implementing one-way doors or walkways.
  • Fourth level protection (PPE): If the first three levels of protection aren’t enough to control the risks, supply workers with personal protective equipment (PPE), such as non-medical masks. PPE should not be used as the only control measure. It should only be used in combination with other measures.

Rules for Retail

Retail workers, including Grocery, Pharmacy, Cannabis, Gas Bar, and other workers who interact with the public, should observe the following guidelines:

  • Store layout and occupancy limits: the number of people allowed in the store at the same time must be posted at the store’s entrance. The store layout should support physical distancing and items and areas should be rearranged as needed. If physical distancing cannot be maintained, the employer should consider the use of masks. Shifts can be rearranged to support physical distancing.
  • Welcoming customers into the store: Stores must have signs near the entrance informing customers not to enter if they are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Customers should be informed of protocols in place in the store. Crowd control devices should be used. Any staff member that is expected to perform crowd control duties must be trained in COVID-19 protocols and given support and strategies for managing customers who are unwilling or unable to understand the crowd control measures. Stores must not hand out any flyers, coupons, samples, or testers.
  • Deliveries: delivery drivers must observe physical distancing requirements when they are delivering to the store.
  • Stocking Shelves and Product Displays: Stores should consider stopping or reducing product stocking during opening hours. Stores should consider closing aisles while restocking is happening. Workers should wash their hands before and after stocking shelves. Customers should be given information on the store’s policy on touching items
  • Assisting Customers: Stores should consider stopping, reducing, or modifying customer interaction, demonstration, and assistance practices to reduce the number and intensity of contacts.
  • Fitting Rooms: Unnecessary objects should be removed from the inside of fitting rooms, and stores should consider closing every other fitting room to reduce the number of people in the changing area. There should be protocols for the cleaning of fitting rooms. Customers should be asked to leave unwanted items in a designated location, including hangers.
  • Payment and Till Area: Stores should provide physical barriers, such as plexiglass, if the physical distancing requirement cannot be maintained. The barriers should cover all areas where the customer can move around while interacting with the cashier. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer should be available near pay stations. Curbside pick-ups or staff-assisted purchases (e.g., large items or building materials) should be done with prepayment, a means of identification, and ensuring the customer stays in the vehicle while the worker loads the items. Stores should try to limit the use of cash and limit the handling of credit cards and loyalty cards wherever possible, by allowing customers to scan or tap their cards and handle the card readers themselves. Encourage tap payment over pin pad use. Staff should wash or sanitize hands after handling cash. Customers should hold their ID so it is visible for controlled products. If reusable bags are accepted, the store should consider asking customers to pack the bags themselves. If workers handle or pack goods into reusable bags they must be allowed to frequently wash their hands.
  • Recycling Facilities: Customer contact intensity should be reduced and physical distancing maintained. Determine where splashing may occur and ensure workers have appropriate PPE. Workers handling recycled items should wash their hands after the task is complete.

Rules for Healthcare Professionals

Healthcare professionals, including Community Health Home Care workers and Social Service workers, should observe the following guidelines:

  • Hygiene, Cleaning, and Disinfection: There must be adequate hand washing facilities and hand sanitizer available. Workers and clients should both practice hand hygiene. There should be protocols and procedures in place for sanitizing treatment areas and equipment. Staff should be trained in the safe handling and effective application of cleaning products.
  • Modify Staff Areas and Work Flow: Workers should stay home when sick. Meetings should be held virtually, and when in-person meetings are required, staff members must be positioned at least two metres apart.
  • Scheduling Appointments and Communicating with Clients: Ask clients to consider rescheduling appointments if they become sick, are placed on self-isolation, or have traveled out of the country within the last 14 days. Where possible, clients should attend appointments alone and not have other family members or friends with them.
  • Provision of Health Services: Conduct a point of care assessment for risk of COVID-19 for every client interaction. Health services should not be performed on ill or symptomatic clients if it is clinically appropriate. Where the client requires timely treatment, ensure PPE is used in accordance with BC CDC guidance. When possible, the health professional should position themselves at least two metres from the client. Wherever possible, each employee should use their own products. If products are shared, they must be cleaned and disinfected between uses. Practice effective hand hygiene after each client by washing hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer approved by Health Canada.
  • Preparing for end of day: Change into a separate set of street clothes and footwear before leaving work. Work clothing should be placed in a bag and laundered after every shift. Shower immediately upon returning home after every shift.
  • Documentation and training: Workers must be provided with training on the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and the signs and symptoms of the disease. They should be provided with training on methods for maintaining physical distance, such as not greeting others by hugging or shaking hands. They should be trained on changes to work policies, practices, and procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and there should be records kept of that training. They should be trained in donning, using, and doffing PPE. Staff should be given up-to-date information on public health officer orders and guidance and how to report an exposure to COVID-19. There must be a process is in place for workers to report concerns and for employers to address them, and worker reps or joint health and safety committees must be in place where required.

If you have questions or concerns about any of the above, don’t be afraid to contact your union representative or to speak directly to WorkSafe BC by calling their Prevention Information Line at 604.276.3100 in the Lower Mainland (toll-free within B.C. at 1.888.621.SAFE).

You can read the full list of recommendations for retailers here and the full list of recommendations for health care professionals here.