We know it can be confusing to navigate — the suggested guidelines, the long lists of resources, countless articles, what neighbouring businesses are doing, and what is (and isn’t) working in other regions and countries. With all of the information out there about how to stay responsible and safe in the era of COVID, we wanted to get to the bottom of what’s most important for salons and spas in Western Canada. So, we went straight to the source: WorkSafeBC.
At this point, you’ve hopefully done a thorough review of WorkSafeBC’s “Personal Services: Protocols for Returning to Operation” resource guide. And while we know this guide can still feel complex, that’s because it is complex. As Lisa Houle of WorkSafeBC tells us, “There is a lot of information to go through, but that is part of the work necessary to keep your workplace safe.”
While we first and foremost recommend working through the guide, we wanted to amplify some important points.
What is Mandatory?
Many of us would love to be told exactly what to do. However, as Lisa explains, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan: “What makes sense for a 50 square foot space and a 2000 square foot space with all kinds of variables in location, operation, staffing just doesn’t match up. Not all salons can be painted with the same brush stroke.” And it would be frustrating to have blanket rules enforced that didn’t make sense for all businesses.
The one thing that is mandatory: having a plan. “Developing a COVID-19 safety plan for your business is required,” says Lisa, “that is public health order.”
Developing and consistently implementing effective COVID-19 safety plans is our best chance at avoiding future mandates, restrictions and industry shutdowns.
Developing a COVID-19 Safety Plan
You know that you need a plan, but how do you make sure it’s sufficient? Lisa’s suggestion is to always start and finish with the hierarchy of protection.
What does this mean?
The hierarchy refers to the level of protection offered by the protocols in each category. That means you should start with the highest level of protection, implementing all “elimination” protocols (those that eliminate contact between people) that you possibly can in your business, before moving onto the second highest level of protection, “engineering controls” (those that create barriers between people). You should implement and exhaust protocols in each category, before moving onto the next level of protection.
What this doesn’t mean?
Starting with masks! “Everybody goes right to masks, but they are the least effective form of control and a last resort,” stresses Lisa. While masks are particularly important in our industry and others requiring close proximity between people, we cannot overlook more effective protocols that offer ourselves, our staff and our clients a higher level of protection.
“Distance and limiting the number of people in your workspace are first and foremost,” says Lisa, followed by physical barriers, then cleaning and operational protocols, and finally, PPE.
To get you started on a sufficient plan, WorkSafeBC has created a six-step template that you can use here. This page also has links, lists and a downloadable PDF of protocols to consider for your business. “We’ve done the research and compiled best practices and protocols for you to consider for your business,” explains Lisa, “Your process for deciding what to implement should be based on the hierarchy of protection and the specifics of your space and operation.”
How are safety plans monitored and enforced?
There are two different organizations that monitor and inspect safety conditions related to COVID-19 in salons and spas.
- Occupation Safety Officers are from WorkSafeBC, and they are most concerned with the safety of workers at worksites.
- Environmental Health Officers (EHO) are public health officials, and they are most concerned with public health. So, while you wouldn’t see EHOs at all worksites, salons and spas are open to the public and bacteria, infection and other health concerns are relevant here.
Due to these distinct responsibilities, a business may receive different messages from each of these organizations. And as we already covered, protocols for one business are not necessarily the right protocols for another — so, businesses within the same industry may receive different instruction from the same organization.
Ultimately, we are all responsible for consistently reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. That means developing our own thorough and thoughtful plans suited specifically for our business and space. And while differing plans may seem like inconsistency, Lisa assures us: “What’s important is how consistent people are with their own COVID safety plans — that is when we have seen success. So, don’t let your foot off the gas!”
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