What to know about managing COVID-19 risks in your Alberta workplace
Safety first. Whether you call Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Lethbridge, or anywhere in between home, COVID-19 is impacting your life as an Albertan. As businesses gradually reopen and community activities slowly resume, people are operating and interacting with each other differently during the pandemic.
Keeping people safe is essential. The Government of Alberta is advising businesses that “it’s important to take measures to protect employees and customers.”1 Cleaning, disinfecting and proper use of personal protective equipment are all vitally important. In addition, as a business owner or leader, you are also advised to:
- “conduct a hazard assessment to identify existing and potential hazards related to COVID-19
- understand the basic requirements of occupational health and safety (OHS) laws
- aid physical separation through barriers (Plexiglas), signage, floor markings and traffic flow controls to limit people in a space”2
During COVID-19, businesses are pivoting to incorporate these and many other new recommendations to help keep people as safe as possible. Thankfully, many day-to-day guidelines are now available to help businesses and non-profits put safety first in their Alberta workplace.
What COVID-19 risks are the biggest concerns for workplaces?
Breaking outbreak news. Was it the elevators, HVAC systems or common spaces? These are the questions that Alberta Health Services are investigating after a recent outbreak of COVID-19 cases in a Calgary condo building.
CBC News notes, “Alberta Health Services is investigating possible causes that led to a recent outbreak of COVID-19 at an East Village condominium tower. Many theories abound as to what could have caused the outbreak, including contaminated high-touch surfaces, the elevators or Airbnb units in the 25-storey building.”3
Meanwhile, the owner of a cleaning service that cleans Airbnb rental units in the building notes, “There’s nobody that is cleaning the high-touch areas on a regular basis. You go into other buildings and you see cleaners wiping the doors, the elevator buttons, people are wearing masks, the concierge is wearing a mask.”4
COVID-19 is and will continue to change how we live, work and interact with each other. This is why implementing new procedures, routines and responsibilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is top of mind for every Alberta business owner and leader. As this example shows, there are many hidden gaps when it comes to effectively managing COVID-19 risks.
COVID-19 workplace risks and relaunching your Alberta business
Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is the focus of the Government of Alberta’s relaunch guidance documents. This comprehensive online resource includes general workplace guidelines as well as specific sector information for various stages of a relaunch. For instance, during the pandemic,
“to open your service or setting the public, it is recommended you complete a plan to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 among the attendees of your location (e.g., workers, patrons, students or congregants).”5
In addition, it is recommended that you publicly post your plan to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Managing Risks – A Relaunch Plan Template for Alberta businesses
Covering everything from screening to distancing to cleaning and beyond, this template can help you build a COVID-19 risk management plan for your workplace. Here are just a few guideline questions it prompts you to answer:
- “How will you ensure people maintain 2 metres between each other? Do you need to maintain directional traffic flow?
- How will you train and ensure workers or volunteers keep equipment clean?
- Have you updated contact information for staff and volunteers so that they can be notified in the event of a known exposure?
- What would your approach be if you had to manage a situation where there was apparent non-compliance with your plans/direction?”6
When employees, customers, volunteers and suppliers are in your workplace, potential exposure to COVID-19 is something that you need to remain vigilant about. From day camps to taxis, hotels to restaurants, office buildings to warehouses, you can access customized guidance for businesses, communities and organizations here.
10 ways keep your Alberta workplace safe during COVID-19
It isn’t easy to implement COVID-19 risk management best practices in your Alberta workplace. Most importantly, this is why the Government of Alberta is providing a number of specific safety actions. For example, areas of focus include hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, cleaning and disinfecting, Personal Protective Equipment, workplace bathrooms and showers.
The document also includes ways in which businesses can reduce the risk of transmission amongst workers, volunteers and patrons.
Here are some examples of how to distance and manage workplace gatherings:
- “Maintaining a 2-metre separation between individuals (e.g., workers, volunteers, and patrons) is preferred in any business.
- Restricting the number of employees, volunteers and patrons in a business at any one time.
- Directing traffic flow within the business; e.g. establishing one-way shopping aisles.
- Installing a physical barrier, such as a cubicle, partition or window, to separate workers, volunteers and patrons.
- Increasing separation between desks and workstations.
- Eliminating or re-structuring of non-essential gatherings (e.g. meetings, training classes) of workers, patrons and volunteers. Typically, this involves moving in-person meetings to virtual media platforms like teleconference or video conference.
- Limiting the number of people in shared spaces (such as lunchrooms) or staggering break periods. Removing chairs form spaces and taping markers at 6-foot distances may be helpful in preventing crowds.
- Limiting hours of operation or setting specific hours for at-risk patrons.
- Implementing contact-free modes of patron interaction such as home-delivery of goods or curb-side pickup of items.
- Placement of reference markers (e.g., markings on the floor in grocery line-ups) that set out two-metre distances.”7
To keep current on the latest COVID-19 workplace relaunch guidance documents and related Government of Alberta information, you can bookmark this page. In addition, you can find general COVID-19 information for Albertans here.
ALIGNED with you | We’re your Alberta business insurance advocate during COVID-19 and beyond…
To sum up, we are here to support you, no matter what the future brings. ALIGNED Alberta business insurance experts are working closely with clients who are shifting their business models, renovating their workplaces, and changing their operations.
We appreciate that during COVID-19 you will likely have questions. To clarify coverage and answer your questions we are regularly creating content like this article.
As your business changes during COVID-19, your specific commercial insurance needs may also change. For example, if you experience a material change in risk due to changing your operations, service, products, property, automobiles, use of automobiles or other factors, this change must be reported to your insurer. Here is a list of common situations when you need to contact your insurance broker. Likewise, this reference tool is particularly useful during COVID-19.
In some instances, your policy could be cancelled if you fail to report certain changes to your Alberta business. And if reporting requirements are not met, your coverage could be denied in the event of a claim.
The good news is that there are products that can fill important coverage gaps. Unoccupied property insurance is an important option if you decide to temporarily or permanently close a location.
The insurance industry is built upon the principle of utmost good faith.
This means that the sharing of complete, accurate and current information amongst all parties is essential. As your Alberta business insurance advocate, we are here to help you during COVID-19 and beyond.
In short, if you have any questions about COVID-19 and your coverage, we’ll get you the answers you need to move forward with confidence.
Sources: 1,2 Alberta.ca: Alberta Biz Connect; 3,4 CBC News: Elevators, Airbnb or something else? AHS investigates mysterious COVID outbreak in Calgary highrise; Alberta.ca: Relaunch Guidance Documents for Workplaces; Alberta.ca: Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy;5,6 Alberta.ca: COVID-19 Information General Relaunch Guidance ; 7Alberta.ca: COVID-19 Information – Workplace Guidance for Business Owners; Alberta.ca: COVID-19 info for Albertans