VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A flood of calls and complaints to WorkSafeBC about COVID-19 concerns means the government regulator had an extra 3,000 to handle in March and April.
The rush has since died down, according to senior manager of prevention field services, Barry Nakahara.
“To the point where it’s similar to what we were experiencing prior to the whole outbreak,” he says, adding calls are now being returned within days and even hours.
According to WorkSafeBC, around 700 calls since March 1 highlighted concerns employers were not maintaining physical or social distancing requirements, while more than 100 complaints focused on a lack of sanitization or hand washing.
Each call initiates an “action request,” and depending on the seriousness of the complaint, a prevention officer may initiate a site inspection.
But those inspections can be dangerous for WorkSafe officers, says Nakahara.
“This is an unusual situation for us as it is for everybody because we’re subject to the same expectations and limitations as the public health office has put on the rest of the public. So, we need to work within those parameters, as well,” he says, all while ensuring workplaces are keeping up with directives.
He says WorkSafeBC has also moved to having staff work remotely and understands just how hard this has all been on businesses and their workers.
“[We’re] changing our inspection tactics so we’re not walking into situations where we are either a potential vector for transmission or we’re putting our employees in a situation where they might be exposed,” says Nakahara.
He says staff inspecting hospitals, meat processing plants, and jails, for example are protected while on the job.
As some provinces plan to slowly re-open certain aspects of the economy and health services, including surgeries, Nakahara says he doesn’t expect the same level of calls but a second surge in demand is possible as employers not used to social distancing regulations adjust.
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He credits the province and provincial health authority for clear communication around requirements for the return to normal call volumes.