Faced with more contagious variants, delays in the rollout of vaccinations, and ongoing compliance checks, minimizing workplace transmission has become an even greater priority for businesses.
"Many essential businesses have already experienced COVID cases or outbreaks," says Trevor Beauchamp, WSPS' Director, Field Logistics. "With non-essential businesses opening up and a looming third wave of infections, the potential human and economic consequences of a workplace breakout are dire. We've reached a point where we may need to dedicate more resources to it."
Staying on top of evolving requirements relating to COVID-19 has been an ongoing challenge for businesses.
Knowing what the requirements are is one thing. Acting on them is another. Now is the time to appoint a workplace champion. Some sectors where people must work in close proximity to each other, such as the music, film and TV industries, have already embraced this concept by hiring COVID-19 compliance officers.
Trevor suggests considering these roles less as compliance officers and more as pandemic advisors or facilitators. "It's not just about complying with requirements," he explains. "These requirements are minimum standards. Instead, it's about ensuring the workplace has effective controls in place that take current requirements into account."
How a pandemic advisor could make your workplace safer
Trevor identifies five ways in which having a pandemic advisor could make a difference:
- ensuring your mandatory pandemic safety plan has been implemented, works well, and is updated as needed.
- educating managers, supervisors and workers on their duties under the Internal Responsibility System in the context of the pandemic.
- monitoring changes, such as the colour of your region in the provincial COVID-19 response framework, and new directives issued by your local public health unit.
- ensuring the workplace fulfils its WSIB reporting obligations regarding any cases of COVID-19 potentially contracted at work.
- preventing the spread of misinformation - Countering misinformation with facts and updates, as well as the science behind them, could help prevent COVID fatigue and bolster employees’ commitment to following COVID precautions.
"Don't assume you need to hire a 'pandemic specialist,'" says Trevor. Many of the required skills are ones that employees may already have. For instance, look for someone who
- can read and interpret legislation
- understands how COVID is transmitted, and the rationale behind COVID-19 precautions, such as why we should minimize touching our face
- can quickly grasp the essentials of a situation, fill in any knowledge gaps, and help the workplace take action
"Think of it as an investment in the future. The world will never go back to the way it was before the pandemic. We'll have to be prepared for future outbreaks, whether it's a resurgence of COVID-19 or something else."
How WSPS can help
- Develop a COVID-19 safety plan if you haven't already done so. It's now mandatory. Follow this safety plan guide and template. WSPS has free samples of sector-specific safety plans to help you populate your plan.
- Bookmark the WSPS Legislative Tracker to stay up-to-date and informed on Ontario and federal OHS legislative changes.
- Find sector-specific best practices and hazard controls for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in more than 100 COVID-19 health and safety guidance documents.
- You'll also find many other resources on WSPS' COVID-19 Hub.
This information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.