This week, LifeLabs has moved to provide PSC and mobile services to patients who screen positive for COVID-19. This includes patients that have tested positive for COVID-19 and screen positive as per the LifeLabs screening process.
We have heard from many members that are concerned about this change, and are worried about their health and safety when serving patients that have screened positive, so we have been in close communication with your employer to discuss this change.
We emphasized that it is critical for employees to receive adequate instruction and training when new procedures are introduced. In particular, this includes new cleaning/ housekeeping practices. We asked the employer how lineups and waiting areas will be managed in order to maintain social distancing. In addition, we made it clear that as some LifeLabs locations are closing or reducing hours, workers moving to new worksites must receive a full safety orientation at their new worksite before beginning work. The employer has committed to providing additional information, and we are awaiting their response. The employer has also committed to providing adequate time for workers to familiarize themselves, practice and ask questions about the new procedures.
It is important to note that the new procedures implemented by the employer involve contact and droplet precautions for interactions with patients. This includes separation and decontamination procedures for patients that screen positive. In addition, aerosol producing tests are not to be completed for patients that screen positive. The procedures implemented by the employer, including PPE requirements, align with infection control guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). As per the guidelines from these agencies, N95 masks are not required in this context.
We will continue to communicate with the employer about protecting the health and safety of our members at LifeLabs. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure workers are properly informed, trained, equipped and supervised when working in settings where there’s risk of exposure to COVID-19. The BCGEU expects that the employer will provide timely, specific and clear direction to workers on the infection control protocols they will follow to avoid exposure to the virus. We also expect the employer to ensure there is sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on hand for workers, and provide the training to use it.
Workers should always apply a precautionary approach to their work, and consult a supervisor with any questions about protocols or the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). You have the right to express any health and safety concern to your employer, and to expect a response without undue delay.
You can reduce your risk of infection by doing the following:
- Follow your work site unit or employer infection control policies. If you are unsure about what’s needed, talk to your supervisor, before doing the task you are assigned.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wear the required PPE for “droplet and contact precautions” before interacting with a confirmed or suspected patient.
- When interacting with a confirmed or suspected patient, ensure you’re wearing PPE including gloves, long-sleeved gown, a mask, and eye or face protection (safety glasses are not adequate).
- Ask for training or a refresher on how to don, doff and dispose of PPE correctly.
- If you do not have the PPE you need, stop and speak with your supervisor before proceeding.
- If your concerns are not resolved, talk to you EHS representative, your shop steward and your Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee representative (where applicable) about next steps.
- If you think you’ve been exposed, report to your employer immediately, following your incident report process.
- Stay home if you are experiencing the flu and common cold. This includes symptoms such as a cough, sneezing, fever, sore throat and difficulty breathing.
You are on the frontlines of this crisis, and we recognize and appreciate the tremendously important work you are doing. We will continue to do our part in supporting you during this unprecedented time.
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