On May 6, 2020, Premier John Horgan unveiled the provincial government’s plan to safely restart British Columbia. The “B.C. Restart Plan” (“Plan”) outlines a process to gradually lift restrictions on social and economic activities, and allow for the safe reopening of various sectors and businesses closed or impacted by COVID-19.
As part of this Plan, the government will work together with public health officials, industry organizations and businesses. Certain sectors will be asked to develop ‘enhanced protocols’ for operating safely and in accordance with public health and safety guidelines. The creation of the protocols will be overseen by a committee of deputy ministers, with input and advice from the Provincial Health Officer. The Plan also notes that the Provincial Health Officer may need to consider lifting or modifying existing orders before certain businesses or industries may re-open.
Resources to assist businesses and sectors as they restart their activities including new Health Guidelines and Checklists will be available at WorkSafeBC.com.
WorkSafeBC will also work with industry associations to ensure the direction and guidance they provide to their members meets the requirements set out by the Provincial Health Officer.
Employers will be required to:
- Review the new Health and Safety Guidelines, best practices and other resources at WorkSafeBC.com; and
- Adapt these materials into appropriate COVID Safe Plans for each workplace.
Sectors that have operated during the pandemic may need to update their existing plans to fit with updated Health and Safety Guidelines, best practices and resources.
Employers should continue to monitor for new developments impacting their industry or sector.
The Plan is broken down into four phases:
|Phase 1 (Where we are today)||Essential services and others able to continue operations under existing public health orders and guidelines.|
|Phase 2 (Mid-May onward)||Under enhanced protocols:|
|Phase 3 (June-September, if transmission rate remains low or in decline)||Under enhanced protocols:|
|Phase 4 (TBD) – conditional on at least one of wide vaccination; community immunity or broad successful treatments|
The “New Normal”
The Plan emphasizes that we will all need to continue to do our part (at home, at work, and in the community) in order for this Plan to be a success:
- Stay at home when you have cold or flu symptoms (coughing, sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, fatigue);
- Maintain physical distancing outside your home. Consider using non-medical face masks when distancing is not possible (e.g. shopping, or on transit);
- When visiting with friends in family (mid-May and beyond), only get together in small groups (around 2-6 people) and continue to maintain physical distancing. Persons over age 60 or with underlying medical conditions are encouraged to take extra precautions.
- Practice good hygiene (including regular hand washing; avoiding touching your face; covering coughs and sneezing);
- Clean your home and workspace more regularly; and
- Stay informed and follow public health advice.
Employers are advised in the B.C. Restart Plan to:
- Create clear workplace policies that ensure people with cold or flu symptoms do not come to work;
- Implement sick day policies that allow people to be off or work safely from home when they are ill or have symptoms of a cold or flu;
- Provide work from home options, when possible, to reduce contact intensity. When it’s not an option, consider measures such as staggered shifts and virtual meetings as much as possible;
- Implement strategies that reduce the number and intensity of contacts – from greater use of non-medical masks to more checkouts and increased shopping hours;
- Clean “high-touch” areas in workplaces and retail outlets frequently and provide hand sanitizer at entrances; and
- Focus on higher-risk employees including those 60+ and those with underlying medical conditions – from more flexible hours, to work from home options and workspace accommodation.
More information and resources regarding the Plan are available on the British Columbia government website here.
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 Burkes, Nicole Toye or Jessica Fairbairn.
To read our most recent articles and other updates on COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 Updates page.