The Province of B.C. has announced the introduction of a new expedited workplace closure order in an effort to prevent further transmission of COVID-19 among staff at non-essential businesses.
The order, announced by Dr. Bonnie Henry during a live press conference on Thursday, will allow public health authorities and WorkSafeBC inspectors to close workplaces for 10 days or longer if three or more employees test positive for COVID-19. The workplace closure order will only be implemented if Public Health determines that the transmission occurred at the workplace location.
“They are one of the most common sources of transmission in our province,” said Dr. Henry in regards to workplaces.
The expedited workplace closure will not apply to places such as police stations, fire halls, transport hubs, grocery stores, pharmacies or other businesses that are determined to be essential to the community.
“We recognize of course there are many workplaces that cannot be closed that, for public interest, we need to keep them open and functioning and those will be under the guidance of Public Health as well,” she said during the press conference.
Dr. Henry says the new order is in an effort to help manage any outbreaks at non-essential facilities and is an attempt to limit further spread within the business or to any potential customers of that facility.
According to the Provincial Health Officer, this closure may be restricted in larger workplaces to the specific location the transmission has occurred. She provided the example of a construction site, suggesting that it may just be one team that is required to stop working for the 10-day closure.
Health officials will also work alongside WorkSafeBC inspectors to communicate with each workplace that is issued a closure in order to provide advice around COVID-19 safety plans and point out where transmission events are happening.
Dr. Henry notes that WorkSafeBC inspectors will be able to support health officials and serve the closure notice as well as support the workplace to “review and enhance their safety plans as needed.”
While certain businesses will not be forced to close amid an outbreak, Dr. Henry says there are extra resources being made available to support those operations when there is workplace transmission.
During this order, the Province intends to provide a public list of workplaces that have been closed and the dates of their reopening.