BC’s Re-Start Plan: WorkSafeBC Protocols Released

On March 15, 2020, WorkSafeBC released a series of industry-specific protocols for employers to follow as part of resuming operations in Phase 2 of British Columbia’s Re-Start Plan.  The sectors covered include arts and cultural facilities, health professionals, in-person counselling, education (K-12), offices, parks, personal services, real estate, restaurants, cafes and pubs, and retail. All these protocols include general information on developing a COVID-19 Safety Plan, which we covered here, understanding COVID-19 risks, and deciding between different levels of protocol protection.

Specific guidelines for restaurants, personal services, retail and office spaces are outlined below and we will continue to provide further updates for sectors as they are announced.

Personal Services

WorkSafeBC has published a protocol for personal services businesses such as barbers, hairdressers, nail salons and aestheticians. Personal services are currently ordered closed by the provincial health officer and may not reopen until the order is lifted. These protocols may be used in the interim to guide preparations for re-opening.

The protocols include guidance for managing the workplace, client management, providing personal services to clients, tools and equipment, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting. We briefly summarize these protocols below.

Managing the Workplace

  • Provide physical barriers (ex. plexi glass) at reception, between service stations or other areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained;
  • Arrange workstations to ensure adequate physical distancing (2 metres);
  • Consider scheduling staff in “cohorts” and stagger breaks;
  • Remove magazines, toys and other high touch items; Remove product testers;
  • Limit the handling of cash;
  • Post COVID-19 protocols throughout the workplace, on the company website and social media. Notify clients of protocols before their visit

Client Management

  • Establish policies and procedures with respect to clients entering your premises, including:

– Ask clients whether they have symptoms. Clients should be directed to cancel appointments if they develop symptoms or have a family member confirmed or suspected;

– Ask clients to wait outside until their appointment time;

– Clients should arrive alone, where possible.

  • Limit the number of people in the premises. Eliminate bookings for groups unless distancing is possible;
  • Establish policies around hand washing for clients and staff;
  • Consider suspending the practice of offering food and beverage items to clients, or use disposable cups or bottled beverages;

Providing Personal Services

  • Where physical distancing cannot be maintained, and barriers cannot be used, masks should be worn by clients and workers. Provide masks for clients who do not have their own;
  • Restrict or prohibit higher risk services where controls cannot be implemented.

Tools and Equipment

  • Establish hygiene practices which involve a requirement to wash or sanitize hands after coming into contact with public items;
  • Minimize sharing of tools, equipment and products. Provide each worker with their own set of tools, if possible;
  • Use single-use items where possible and discard after use.

Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting

  • Schedule additional time between appointments to allow for proper cleaning and disinfecting;
  • Clean and disinfect the workplace throughout the day and between clients. Clean and disinfect all tools and equipment between each client;
  • Reduce the amount of retail products to allow for easier cleaning.

Restaurants, Pubs and Cafes

Restaurants, pubs and cafes are currently ordered by the Provincial Health Officer to provide take-out or delivery service only. These protocols may be used in the interim to guide preparations for re-opening. With respect to the restaurant and food service industry, the protocols provide guidance in four categories: general considerations, table service, kitchen and delivery.  We summarize the significant protocols below, but full details can be accessed at WorkSafeBC’s website here.

General Considerations

  • The number of customers seated together must be limited to no more than 6 people;
  • Calculate how many tables of 6 will fit in your space while allowing for 2 metres of space between tables, including seats;
  • Reconfigure waiting areas to comply with social distancing requirements;
  • Use table numbers and have customers seat themselves;
  • Add physical barriers between customers and greeters, hosts, bartenders and payment areas;
  • Encourage key drop deliveries.

Table Service

  • Have customers pour their own water, pass their own drinks around the table, and package their own leftover food.
  • Remove one chair per table, so that the server has a designated space to come to the table;
  • Encourage the use of contact less payment options;
  • Remove table top items (salt and pepper shakers, candles, etc.);
  • Use non-traditional menus (digital, chalkboard, online pre-ordering, or disposable single use menus);
  • Consider limiting server traffic into the kitchen by turning the bar into service or pass-through counters;
  • Develop detailed cleaning and hygiene protocols with respect to hand washing, availability of hand sanitizer, increased cleaning between seatings, and cleaning procedures for any condiments or shared items brought to the table.


  • Install plexiglass barriers between work stations;
  • Limit the number of staff in food preparation areas;
  • Consider the creation of cohorts of workers who work together and do not interact with other cohorts, to reduce transmission within the workplace if an individual becomes ill;
  • Develop detailed cleaning and hygiene protocols which emphasize the cleaning and sanitation of high touch and shared items or areas;
  • Cooks and chefs should use their own high-use tools such as knives;
  • Consider use of masks where social distancing and use of barriers is not possible.


  • Stagger start times for delivery drivers to prevent crowding at restaurant dispatch locations;
  • Delivery personnel should limit contact with customers by dropping packages at doors, and calling or texting ahead of time so that the customer is ready to accept the delivery;
  • Include any shared vehicles in their cleaning protocols, including disinfectant wipe down of touch points.

Retail Operations

These guidelines apply to shops, malls and department stores, as well as any employer with a retail component.

Employers resuming operations are required to develop a COVID-19 Safety Plan, which must be posted at the worksite. Employers with continuing operations will want to ensure they have a plan in place. COVID-19 Safety Plans must be created jointly with workers, supervisors, and the joint health and safety committee, where applicable. A formal plan is not required to begin operations, but development of it should start upon re-opening. All employers are encouraged to review the guidelines to ensure compliance with the various protocols outlined. Retailers face important considerations for their processes, layout and occupancy.

Appropriate signage and direction for customer queues should be established. Employers should also consider arranging areas to encourage physical distancing and avoid congestion. The use of masks for workers may also be advisable depending on the specific nature, size and layout of the operation. Retailers must know, and post, their space’s occupancy limit.

Payment and checkout should be modified where possible. For example, retailers should consider plexiglas barriers, discouraging reusable bags, and making frequent handwashing and sanitization methods available, especially for workers who regularly handle goods.

For detailed protocol recommendations, see WorkSafeBC’s webpage.


The new guidelines for any employer with an office space can be found here.

The guidelines outline an employer’s COVID-19 Safety Plan, which must be created jointly with workers, supervisors, and the joint health and safety committee, where applicable. A formal plan is not required to begin operations, but development of it should start upon re-opening. The plan must be posted and available for all workers to review.

The guidelines give protocols specific to the office environment. For example, they encourage staggering start times to avoid congestion; making hand sanitizer available near entries and exits; and posting signage restricting access to those exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.

With regard to general operations, staggered shifts should be considered; meetings should be avoided or made virtual; and employers may wish to organize employees into cohorts who work with one-another to avoid possible spread throughout more people. In addition, working from home is encouraged whenever possible.

Posted guidelines and appropriate signage encouraging physical distancing, limiting multiple occupancy to certain areas at one time, and one-way staircase and hallway protocols may also be advisable. Tips for managing deliveries, transportation and elevator use are also provided.

For detailed protocol recommendations, see WorkSafeBC’s webpage.

If you have any questions about this article, please contact Ilan BurkesSari Wiens, Nicole Toye or Jessica Fairbairn.

Note to our Readers: Information regarding COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. We are working to bring you up-to-date articles as the legal issues develop and to keep our previous posts updated. Given that the legal issues related to COVID-19 are constantly changing, if you are looking for legal advice or are dealing with an issue in relation to COVID-19, please contact your Harris lawyer or a member of our COVID-19 response team: Sari Wiens, Ilan BurkesNicole Toye or Jessica Fairbairn.

To read our most recent articles and other updates on COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 Updates page.