COVID-19 Risks | What to know about managing COVID-19 risks in your BC workplace

Safety planning. It doesn’t matter if you call Prince Rupert, Victoria, Kelowna or Vancouver home, COVID-19 is changing every British Columbian’s life. Your manufacturing business may now be making personal protection equipment. You may be monitoring how your retail, grocery or restaurant employees interact with customers. Or you may be pivoting your business operations during the pandemic.

As a business owner, you know risk management best practices help manage workplace hazards. Specific workplace guidelines are now available to help mitigate ongoing COVID-19 risks in your business. This article highlights some actions you can take as part of your COVID-19 safety planning for your BC employees, customers and suppliers.

What COVID-19 risks are the biggest concerns for workplaces?

Breaking outbreak news. A resort, beach lodge, spin studio and café in Kelowna, BC just made recent news due to potential COVID-19 exposure.

A CBC News report notes: “While these locations have been identified as areas in which people may have been exposed to COVID-19, Interior Health is asking anyone who attended events in Kelowna’s downtown and waterfront areas between June 25 and July 6 to monitor themselves closely for symptoms. Eight people have tested positive for coronavirus after attending private parties and visiting local bars and restaurants during that time, Interior Health said.”1 

As your BC business pivots during COVID-19, people are counting on your business to implement and consistently monitor safety plans. One misstep has the potential to not only endanger lives but cause lasting reputational damage to your organization.

Adapting to manage COVID-19 risks and safety planning isn’t easy. You can rest assured that the ALIGNED team is here to help you navigate the “new normal” for your BC business. Keep reading to find some information and COVID-19 risk management resources that we hope you will find useful for your workplace.

Managing COVID-19 risks in your BC workplace

Risk mitigation is key. Every BC business owner is well aware that identifying potential workplace risk exposures has never been more important. Thankfully, governments at all levels are also providing risk mitigation guidance for workplaces.

The Government of Canada notes that, “To prevent and/or limit the spread of COVID-19 in community-based settings such as your workplace/business, consider the following risk mitigation principles and measures.

  • Risk mitigation measures that are more protective involve separating people from each other or shared surfaces through physical distancing and physical barriers.
  • Measures that are less protective rely on individuals to consistently follow personal preventive practices (e.g., environmental cleaning, use of personal protective equipment, wearing of non-medical masks or cloth face coverings).
  • In some settings, physical distancing or separation may not be possible. To maximize safety, use a “layered” approach with multiple measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread, including decreasing the number of interactions with others and increasing the safety of interactions.
  • Layering of multiple mitigation measures strengthens the risk mitigation potential overall.”2

8 ways keep your BC workplace safe during COVID-19

Most importantly, you can take specific actions to mitigate common COVID-19 workplace risks. Specifically, within all non-health care workplaces, employers and business owners can:

  1. “Discourage people who are ill from entering the workplace/business.
  2. Promote and facilitate personal preventive practices. Everyone plays a part in making workplaces/businesses safer, including employers, employees, contractors, clients, and all others who interact with workplaces/businesses.
  3. Promote physical distancing (keeping a distance of 2 metres from others), which is one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illness.
  4. Create physical barriers between employees/clients when physical distancing is not possible.
  5. Increase ventilation.
  6. Mitigate risks from exposure to high-touch surfaces (i.e., frequently touched by others).
  7. Mitigate risk for people at higher risk of severe illness.
  8. Modify practices to reduce how long employees/clients are in contact with each other and how many employees/clients come into contact with each other.”3

When your BC workplace risks change, you need to contact us

It’s important to understand that as your business changes during COVID-19, your commercial insurance needs may also need to change. For example, if you temporarily or permanently close a location, unoccupied property insurance can fill an important gap for a vacant business location.

What is a representation of risk?

Anytime and especially during COVID-19, you are bound to accurately and completely represent all facts known to you. This is known as your representation of risk. When an insurance company sets the rate and/or premium for risk, it is based on their appraisal of risk or decision to provide coverage at a specific time. This decision takes place during the initial application or renewal submission.

As a result, full, accurate and complete disclosure is essential. If any of your business operations, subsidiaries, joint ventures, services, property, products or procedures are not represented in full, or concealed, this may result in a claim being denied and/or the policy cancelled.

Why any material change in your BC Business risks needs to be reported

In addition, changing your operations, service, products, property, automobiles, use of automobiles or other factors, must be reported to your insurer. This is known as a material change in risk.

If reporting requirements are not met, your coverage could be denied in the event of a claim. In some instances, your policy could be cancelled if you fail to report certain changes to your BC business.

Utmost good faith. This is the principle that the insurance industry is built upon.

This means that the sharing of complete, accurate and current information amongst all parties is essential. As your BC business insurance advocate, we are here to help you during COVID-19 and beyond. If you have questions about COVID-19 and your coverage, we’ll get you the answers you need to move forward with confidence.

COVID-19 workplace supports for BC businesses

Recognizing the impact of the pandemic on workplaces, the BC Government is providing a number of business supports. From financial support to free small business webinars to info about pivoting your operations you can find many workplace resources here.

Reassessing your workplace is the first step in identifying and managing COVID-19 risk as a BC employer. While many of your employees may be working from home during the pandemic, if and when they are onsite in your workplace, there are many things you need to consider. Potential exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace is something that every employer and business owner needs to remain vigilant about.

Small Business BC shares information about how to assess your risks. They also list some general best practices for how to rearrange space within the workplace such as:

  • “Set occupancy limits
  • Rearrange reception or waiting areas, including removing seating and installing plexiglass barriers
  • Remove communal objects such as water coolers and magazines
  • Provide hand sanitizer stations
  • Manage the flow of traffic, including designated entrances and exits and one-way staircases and walkways
  • Prop doors open to reduce person-to-surface contact
  • Limit the number of employees allowed in communal areas at any one time
  • Install signage at appropriate places, including directional signage on floors, physical distancing floor stickers, posters stating occupancy limits and other important information, and checkout signage with any necessary instructions”4

Small Business BC also recommends that you “Start by reading the WorkSafeBC guidelines for your industry, as well as any guidelines from your industry association.”5

ALIGNED with you | During COVID-19 and beyond…

We are insurance advocates. No matter what the future brings, as your business insurance advocate, we are here to support you.

It isn’t easy to adapt an existing BC business to the new normal during COVID-19. Above all, we understand that you are working hard to keep your staff and clients safe. Every day, we are answering specific coverage questions as well as helping people connect with the best possible business insurance options.

Our BC business insurance experts are working closely with clients as they manage new risks, adopt new safety plans and adapt to new government guidelines.

To sum up, we know how to align the best possible coverage options.

Sources: 1 CBC.ca: B.C. health officials identify more sites of potential COVID-19 exposure in Kelowna; 2,3 Canada.ca: Risk mitigation tool for workplaces / businesses operating during the COVID-19 pandemic ; Government of British Columbia: COVID-19 Supports for Businesses ; 4,5 Small Business BC.ca: How to rearrange your workplace for a safe reopening

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