Man in scarf

Adapting Safety Protocols for the Winter

Like many of you, we’re anxiously awaiting what the first fall and winter season of the COVID-19 pandemic will bring. What we do know is that this season will bring much of the same now-familiar cycle of predicting, waiting, and adapting — and we’re here to guide your protocols as best as we can when new information becomes available.

We also know that we need to do our part to keep transmissions of the virus down so that we can avoid additional restrictions or potential shutdowns that will hurt our businesses and the industry as a whole.

That’s why we asked WorkSafeBC what we could do to prepare for the season and how we can be proactive in adapting our safety protocols.

Firstly, we’ve been assured that the message is the same regardless of the season: having a COVID-19 Safety Plan for your business is mandatory and should be continuously monitored for a) effectiveness, and b) compliance by you, your staff and your customers. In fact, Step 5 of developing a COVID-19 Safety Plan is to “monitor your workplace and update your plans as needed.” As we’ve mentioned before, every business is different — so you are responsible for examining your business and ensuring the protocols you’ve put in place are following the “hierarchy of controls.”

Still, to help get us started, we asked about a couple general areas of concern:

  1. Keeping windows and doors open has been recommended to increase airflow — how can businesses deal with this in the winter?

    While keeping windows and doors open is good practice when possible, this has never been a requirement. WorkSafeBC understands this will be less possible in the colder months. Instead, ensure your ventilation system is in good working condition (more information on that here).

  2. Many of us have asked clients to hold on to their personal belongings or not bring them in at all. In the winter, there will inevitably be many more personal belongings brought into businesses (coats, hats, umbrellas, etc.). Especially considering the recent study on linens, how should businesses handle these items?

    Additional patron clothing and personal items can be brought into businesses during the colder months. However, additional controls or changes to current ones should be put in place to mitigate any increased risk. Some options to consider:

    1. Extra hand washing after handling clothing, or clients hang their own items
    2. Use barriers (e.g. shower curtains) to divide patron items in a designated closet
    3. Additional cleaning and sanitization of closets or storage areas
    4. Patrons could be asked not to bring in hats, gloves, scarves when possible
    5. Patrons could place items in a plastic bag before it is hung in a designated closet

And finally, a reminder that there is no one control that will prevent the spread of COVID-19, but rather a combination of controls is necessary to keep transmissions low. Two that will be of special importance in the winter months — coinciding with the traditional cold and flu season — is having a sick policy for employees and allowing patrons to cancel if sick (without penalty).

As always, if a question arises or you notice something that is or isn’t working well, please don’t hesitate to reach out! As a community, we want to share as much information as we can and support each other through this.

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