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WorkSafe BC ramps up COVID-19 inspections for March Break, St. Patrick's Day

Last Updated Mar 13, 2021 at 6:40 pm PDT

FILE -- A waiter wears a face mask as he carries beer through a restaurant in Vienna, Austria, Thursday, May 14, 2020. In Austria restaurants may open again under certain conditions from Friday on. The Austrian government has moved to restrict freedom of movement for people, in an effort to slow the onset of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Prevention officers wiLl be checking to make sure workplaces are complying with COVID-19 safety plans

WorkSafe inspectors will pay surprise visits to places they predict will see crowds

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — WorkSafe BC is ramping up inspections of bars, restaurants, ski hills, golf courses, and hotels during spring break and ahead of St. Patrick’s Day.

Prevention officers wiLl be checking to make sure workplaces are complying with COVID-19 safety plans during a time when they anticipate more people will be venturing out.

Head of Prevention Services Al Johnson explains why businesses in some sectors are more likely to be inspected than others while school’s out.

“What we try to do is identify where we think families might go or congregate, or where parents might take their kids,” he says.

“The employers that operate those businesses might see more people, and if they do let down their guard then somebody could get exposed to COVID. Employers be aware, you could have a different week of patrons or people visiting your establishments, and just make sure you’re staying true to your plans.”

A change to the Provincial Health Order on gatherings last week loosened restrictions in the outdoors to allow people to get together in small groups of no more than 10. No changes were made to what is allowed indoors, so people are still being told not to go to a restaurant or bar with anyone other than members of their immediate household. Alcohol service will not be allowed on St. Patrick’s day beyond 8 p.m.

RELATED: Outdoor gatherings of 10 now allowed in B.C.

Bars and pubs are likely to be paid a visit by a prevention officer around March 17 to make sure standards aren’t slackening.

“We want to catch employers doing it right, and for the most part they have solid COVID safety plans in place. Where things go sideways is when that plan relaxes. In a pub or a bar, when things get busy people just just trying to serve their patrons, they can let down their guard. The next thing you know they’re not standing behind the barriers that they should be or they’re not wearing their masks all the time. We don’t want that to happen,” he says.

“We want them to stay vigilant. We want them to stay true.”

As of March 5, WorkSafe BC had completed 24,221 COVID-related inspections. Since the onset of the pandemic officers have found 2,232 health and safety violations.

Johnson says with only 10 per cent of inspections finding violations, it’s clear overall compliance is high.

“If we go back a year ago, people had no idea what this risk was, what they needed to do to manage it, how to comply with regulations. Employers, workers they’ve come a long, long way for sure,” he says.

“Typically those deficiencies are where people have started to cut corners. Everybody’s tired everybody’s been pushing hard and as they keep pushing, human nature is to relax a bit and let down their guard. That’s not what we want to happen.”