For some workers in the community social services (CSS) sector, your programs have maintained staffing levels throughout the COVID-19 pandemic; for others, your programs may have closed or changed service delivery methods or you may have been deployed to other programs. In any of these cases, entering this next phase under the BC government's Restart Plan will involve further adaptations and adjustments at your workplaces, in programs, and in the delivery of services to your clients. As we navigate this gradual transition in the CSS sector, your union will continue to stay in communication with your employer to ensure that the directives from the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), and WorkSafeBC are being followed.
The most recent guidance from the BCCDC on the safe delivery of services in CSS can be accessed here: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/community-settings/social-services-providers. This document contains information on both the risks and the appropriate preventative measures in the CSS environment.
The most recent guidance from WorkSafe BC on returning to safe operation during the pandemic can be accessed here: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/about-us/covid-19-updates/covid-19-returning-safe-operation. There is also a link to specific information in the drop down menu on the left of the above page that provides guidance to those providing in-person counselling that may apply to some CSS workers. It is unclear whether WorkSafeBC will be providing further guidance to specific work groups within the CSS sector.
The information from the PHO, the BCCDC, and WorkSafeBC provides direction to employers in the development of occupational health and safety (OH&S) measures for workplaces (called either an Exposure Control Plan or a COVID-19 Safety Plan). These measures need to be put in place to eliminate or reduce the risk of exposure to and transmission of COVID-19 in the CSS setting. Many employers are working cooperatively with OH&S representatives and stewards in the development and finalization of these important measures and procedures.
Please review your workplace's plan so that you are familiar with the protocols that your employer has put in place to ensure compliance with health and safety directives from the PHO, the BCCDC and WorkSafeBC. In the event that you or a colleague feel that the proper processes are not being followed, you should first bring the matter to the attention of your supervisor or manager to try to come to a resolution.
If the situation is not resolved or if you feel unsafe, B.C. Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 3.12 gives you the responsibility and requirement to refuse unsafe work. The process of exercising this right is outlined here: Refusing unsafe work
If you are unsure if you should be refusing unsafe work, or if you have any other questions, contact your shop steward or OHS representative so that they can advise you on your next steps.
Looking for additional resources on workplace health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic? Visit the OH&S section of the BCGEU COVID-19 Information Hub or information specific to the childcare environment at: https://www.bcgeu.ca/covid_19_information_for_community_social_services_members.
Andrea Duncan, BCGEU Component 3 Vice-President
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