WorkSafeBC stepping up inspections as COVID-19 cases soar

To date, 18,000 workplaces have been inspected and 667 orders have been issued to employers for failing to comply with health and safety restrictions

With cases of COVID-19 on the rise, WorkSafeBC says it will be stepping up inspections at workplaces in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions. 

In a press release issued Tuesday morning, the work safety organization urged employers to stay vigilant and update any protocols when it comes to enhanced cleaning and physical distancing to reflect new orders from the provincial health officer. 

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“The focus of our inspections is to ensure employers are effectively implementing measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace, including screenings,” said Al Johnson, the head of prevention services with WorkSafeBC.

“Workplace health and safety are essential in protecting workers and keeping businesses open. Employers need to ensure their COVID-19 plan is effective, that it’s followed to the letter, and that it’s applied to all aspects of the workplace.”

According to WorkSafeBC, places of employment are at the highest risk for spreading the coronavirus. The organization added that workplaces where it is difficult to maintain physical distance and where workers interact with large numbers of customers and staff have been prioritized for inspection. 

WorkSafeBC said it will also be increasing its consultation with employers and has made new information available on its website, including a multi-channel, multi-language public awareness campaign.

To date, more than 18,000 workplaces have been inspected and 667 orders have been issued to employers for health and safety violations. 

The stepped up enforcement comes as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued sweeping new restrictions limiting gatherings to direct members of a household in the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions for two weeks. They also limit travel, social gatherings and indoor group exercises, like yoga or spin classes, along with indoor sports like minor hockey. 

“We need to go back to what we were doing in March, April and May,” she said. “We bring our risk with us and we take our risk back with us when we return.”

The Tri-Cities has seen several outbreaks at workplaces, including a poultry plant last April as well as more recent exposures at retail outlets like Costco and Walmart. 

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