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Stress levels high for many businesses as WorkSafeBC ramps up inspections

Last Updated Nov 10, 2020 at 1:57 pm PST

FILE - A man wearing mask to protect against the spread of COVID-19 is reflected next to a sign requiring face coverings at a business (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

More WorkSafeBC inspections in Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions has some businesses owners worried

CFIB's Muriel Protzer says small businesses are trying their best to comply and she hopes the focus stays on education

Restaurant owners are welcoming more inspections to weed out the 'bad eggs'

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — WorkSafeBC will carry out more inspections of businesses in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions as part of efforts to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control, and that has some business groups on edge.

While some welcome the increased scrutiny, others fear there’s still a lack of clarity on what businesses have to do.

The information isn’t clearly accessible on the Worksafe BC website, according to Muriel Protzer with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. She says many of her members are still confused about what’s actually required.

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“It’s very stressful for them,” she says. “Navigating hundreds of pages of documents of compliance and doing your best to keep your business open and safe and have all the tick marks in the boxes in place. They’re doing their best.

“There’s a lot of concern coming from small business owners who desperately want to be doing the right thing, but don’t have the available information to make sure they are doing the right thing at the end of the day,” Protzer adds.

Businesses revisiting their COVID-19 safety plans and WorkSafe ramping up inspections is part of a two-week COVID-19 order in parts of the Lower Mainland.

Protzer says she wants to see the focus remain on education rather than enforcement.

“I really hope that in the coming weeks as we do see these officers going into businesses, that the approach is to help these businesses build on their COVID-19 safety plans and it’s not just sweeping fines across the board,” she says.

Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, agrees that WorkSafe needs to be mindful of the impact inspections can bring.

“We do need enforcement for all businesses, a regionalized approach, to really mitigate the virus cases. WorkSafe, though, in itself, needs to ensure that the process is smooth, as much as possible, so it doesn’t compromise the bottom line of businesses.”

She says the enforcement is needed for the businesses that aren’t abiding by COVID-19 protocols.

“That’s the only way that we can curb and bend the virus,” Huberman adds, noting businesses can’t afford another economic shutdown.

Restaurant owners welcome more inspections

The same level of concern isn’t coming from restaurant owners, many of whom appear to be open to more inspections during the pandemic.

Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association, isn’t willing to defend the establishments that aren’t taking COVID-19 protocols and safety seriously.

“Some businesses that just are not doing it right, for whatever reason, and even though they’ve been given the chance to correct, they continue to do it, in our opinion, they should be shut down,” he says.

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“Bad eggs should be closed. Inspections, we welcome. The more inspections the better, the more we can adjust the better.”

He says he believes the bulk of the association’s members are prepared for increased inspections.

“The less that we demonstrate to the public that we’re doing things right and we’re flexible and prepared to make the changes that WorkSafe may see, then I think it’s not good for us.”

The new health order hasn’t shut down restaurants, but only people who live together or “immediate households” are supposed to go out to eat.