COVID-19 Recognized as a Workplace Hazard
Written by Chrissy Cordingley, CRSP, CIHC
As the country reduces mandated restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, dealerships need to be aware that COVID-19 is still considered a workplace hazard.
Confused? You are not alone.
The removal of the majority of public health orders does not mean COVID-19 disappears and we can forget it ever existed - though that thought is the dream isn't it?
What the diminished orders mean is that COVID-19 is here to stay and now that we know enough about the virus we can transition workplaces to govern their risks associated with the disease as they see fit. Just like you do with other health risks in the dealership. But current public health orders will still apply when in place.
Every province has released some form of documentation that recognizes COVID-19 as a workplace hazard. This places it under the general caveat of occupational health and safety legislation that requires employers to protect the health and safety of their workers and others within their worksite.
What does that look like for an employer?
The base requirement will be to conduct ongoing hazard assessments, with the involvement of the workers, that will assess risks and apply appropriate control measures.
What should your hazard assessment include?
Any public health orders or updates to the legislation as applicable
Active cases and/or symptomatic workers inside the dealership
Regional active case numbers (is there an outbreak in your area?)
Regional vaccination statistics (does your region have 80% vaccination rates?)
How many of your staff could be considered health vulnerable
Ability to physically distance at work
Ability to have additional control measures
What are our options for controlling COVID-19 as a hazard?
The most effective controls are going to be Engineering Controls which tend to control the hazard at the source. Examples of engineering controls are physical barriers, ventilation systems. Vaccinations and rapid tests are also considered engineering controls.
However, it is very important to receive legal consultation prior to implementing any vaccination or rapid test requirements within a workplace as there are privacy and human rights issues that need to be addressed.
You can share information on the efficacy and safety of vaccinations as well as resources to help your employees make an informed decision that is best for them as long as it does not affect their employment status, privacy, or treatment at work.
We do not ask for proof of smallpox, tetanus, or influenza vaccinations, this is no different. Though some workplaces hold flu vaccination clinics as an example of educating workers.
Administrative controls are changes to how people work such as pre-shift screening, physical distancing, alternate work arrangements, sick leave provisions for symptomatic workers, cleaning procedures, handwashing policies, and most important on-the-job training that shares what the hazards are and what is required for safety.
Lastly is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which is the last barrier of defense such as masks, eyewear, gloves, and other such items worn on the worker's body.
Remember, if the hazard cannot be eliminated by one single control method, employers are required to use a combination of methods to make their dealership as safe as possible.
The layering of control measures is the most effective way to control hazards, which is why you not only installed plexiglass barriers but also trained your workers how to screen themselves each morning and direct customers on where to maintain distance from others.
Click here: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks/guidance-workplaces-covid-19.html for a resource from the Government of Canada that provides information for all employers and includes each province's jurisdictional requirements and guidance.
And don't forget if you are a DealerPILOT HR client you have access to Professional Advisory Services in both Human Resources and Workplace Safety & Health to assist you with your internal programs. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.