WorkSafeBC is increasing inspections in Metro Vancouver and getting more public employees to help, as it focuses its efforts on workplaces with the highest risk of COVID-19 spreading.
Workplaces where it is difficult to maintain physical distance, workers interact with large numbers of people or come into frequent contact with shared surfaces, tools and equipment are the top priority for extra inspections, says Al Johnson, head of prevention services for the B.C. government’s workplace regulator. That includes employer screening of workers for symptoms, and following plans “to the letter.”
“The focus of our inspections is to ensure employers are effectively implementing measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace, including health screenings,” Johnson said Nov. 10. “We are urging employers to stay vigilant, including revisiting their existing COVID-19 safety plan and updating it as conditions change.”
Premier John Horgan announced this week that more public service staff are being transferred to help beef up inspections, particularly in Metro Vancouver where most of B.C.’s spike in COVID-19 infections is concentrated. He emphasized that B.C.’s approach is to help employers, not impose penalties on them, after WorkSafeBC completed 18,000 inspections, more than 3,000 COVID-19 consultations and issued 667 orders for health and safety violations up to Oct. 30.
“We don’t want to shut people down,” Horgan said Nov. 9. “We don’t want to issue tickets. We want people to act responsibly.”
The additional inspectors come from liquor enforcement and other provincial agencies, along with municipal bylaw officers.
“We need to make sure we are transferring more inspectors to public health and we will do that,” Horgan said. “We need to make sure that WorkSafe is focussed not just on employee safety, but patron safety as well. And we need to create ways to ensure we are reducing risky behaviour, reducing work places that have risky behaviour and we do that through, I believe, helping for compliance rather than rigorous enforcement.”