COVID-19 Update: Home support health and safety – Mar 26
The past few days have been challenging for us all, and we have heard from you that the COVID-19 outbreak is causing significant fear and anxiety. We want to start by acknowledging the important work you do to ensure your clients are safe and healthy. You are on the frontlines of this crisis, and it is critical that your health and safety is protected too.
We are in close communication with the health authorities to share your concerns and ensure that you have the information and equipment you need to work safely. Here are some key reminders and additional information for you:
When caring for your clients, always follow the safe work procedures your employer has provided you. If you have any questions or concerns, stop and tell your supervisor immediately.
Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) as required. If your client or family members are suspected or have tested positive for COVID-19, and are being isolated in their home, a higher level of caution and an up-to-date assessment of the risk to your health and safety is required. Patients that are suspected or positive for COVID should be managed with contact and droplet precautions, which includes putting on a gown, surgical/procedure mask, eye protection and gloves. Here is a more detailed explanation of the PPE requirements.
Your employer must provide you with the PPE that you need, and training on how to use it.
If you are not clear about the safe procedure for caring for your client and/or you do not have the PPE you need, stop and tell your supervisor immediately.
Encourage and support clients to practice hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene as much as possible. Regular handwashing and respiratory hygiene should be encouraged for all patients, and especially for patients who have signs and symptoms of an acute respiratory infection. Respiratory hygiene includes:
- Using tissues to cover the mouth and nose during coughing or sneezing, with prompt disposal into a waste receptacle;
- Covering the mouth and nose during coughing or sneezing against a sleeve/shoulder if a tissue is not available; and
- Wearing a mask when coughing or sneezing.
Tell your supervisor immediately if your client or other family members in the home show symptoms of COVID-19. If your client or other family members in the home have symptoms like coughing, sneezing, fever, sore throat and/or difficulty breathing, notify your supervisor before entering the home. If you have already entered the home, ensure your client is safe, then go outside and notify your supervisor immediately.
The employer must assess if it is safe for you to enter the home. Has the employer provided you with training and safe work procedures to deal with a possible COVID-19 case? Has the employer provided you with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE)? Have you received training on how to don/doff PPE? Has the employer given you direction on how to dispose of contaminated materials? Your employer must answer these questions BEFORE you do the work.
What if my supervisor tells me to go ahead, but I still feel unsafe?
If you feel your health and safety is at risk, you must refuse unsafe work. This may be the case if you are not provided with the proper PPE, and/or you have not received safe written work procedures, clear instruction or adequate supervision to carry out the work safely.
The first step is to tell your supervisor that you are refusing unsafe work. Then, your supervisor must investigate, and either fix the problem, or explain to you why they believe the work is safe. Inform your union steward or Occupational Health and Safety representative when you refuse unsafe work, so they can help you go through the proper steps.
Your right to refuse unsafe work is the law in British Columbia. To learn more about the refusal of unsafe work process, click here: https://www.bcgeu.ca/your_right_to_refuse_unsafe_work
Wash your hands often with soap and water – using hand sanitizer is not a substitute for regular handwashing. Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer, has stressed that the best way we can protect ourselves from COVID-19 infection is to wash our hands properly (20 seconds with soap and water).
Physically distance yourself from others as much as possible. Where possible, physically distance yourself from others by 2 metres or 6 feet. Physically distancing yourself is impossible when you care for your clients, so this is why it is critical you always follow the safe work procedures at your workplace.
If you feel ill, stay home, and tell your supervisor immediately. Here is a self-assessment tool that can help you determine if you may have the Covid-19 virus: https://bc.thrive.health/.
We applaud you for your compassion, dedication and courage during this unprecedented crisis. We are here to support you and to help protect your health and safety. If you have any questions or concerns, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
More helpful resources can be found here:
BCGEU Covid-19 hub https://www.bcgeu.ca/covid
BC Government COVID-19 Support App https://bc.thrive.health/covid19app/home, or download from the App Store or Google Play
BC Centre for Disease Control http://covid-19.bccdc.ca/
Worksafe BC Covid-19 updates https://www.worksafebc.com/en/about-us/covid-19-updates
Public Health Agency of Canada Corona Virus https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
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