WCB and Disability Law Update (Covid-19) – Part Two

Transitioning from Phase 1 to Phase 2

With the emergence of Covid-19, the provincial government took immediate steps to close and reduce non-essential service providers in the province. Some essential services, such as health care, transportation, sanitation, and critical infrastructure remained open. However, those industries were required to develop safe operation plans that were in compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.

The safe operation plans were meant to ensure a reduced risk of exposure to the virus and a reduction of workplaces becoming vectors of transmission.  With a reduction in cases, the Government is now prepared to move to Phase 2.

Phase 2 Mid-May and onward

Effective the middle of May, additional, non-essential services will be permitted to open and resume business. These services include:

–          elective surgery,

–          community paramedical providers,

–          retail sector,

–          salons,

–          restaurants,

–          office-based work,

–          community facilities, such as museums and libraries,

–          child care, and

–          outdoor facilities including parks and beaches.

However, in reopening, the provincial health officer has been clear that a further spike in Covid-19 may result in a reduction of services that are available.

Importantly when reopening, all businesses and operations will need to do so in accordance with enhanced protocols. The enhanced protocols need to be in alignment with Public Health and Safety Guidelines and WCB Guidelines. The Public Health and Safety Guidelines are located here.

Phase 2 Union Perspective

Unions have an important role to play specifically in the context of JOHS committees and being engaged in the development of enhanced protocols. The WCB has been clear, it will not be reviewing or approving the plans of individual employers. However, the expectation from WCB is that employers will take steps to minimize the risk of Covid-19 and these steps should include engaging with workers. Such plans must demonstrate how employers will reduce the risk of exposure of the virus through the following:

–          how the workplace is organized and arranged,

–          how specific activities are carried out,

–          cleaning and sanitizing, and

–          communication at the workplace.

If WCB conducts an inspection, it will ask employers how these steps have been taken to protect their workers. Employers must take these steps to ensure the safety of workers. If employers are not taking these steps, you may wish to consider filing a grievance on language around non-compliance with the WCA and related regulations or alternatively, by contacting the WCB Prevention Information Line. Contact information for the line can be found here. The Union has an important role to play in the safe return of workers. We will be doing out bit to ensure Covid-19 does not spike by pushing employers to return workers back safely into the workplace.