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WorkSafeBC blitz finds COVID-19 violations at more than half its Whistler inspections

Common infractions include employers not conducting proper health checks, not having proper equipment available or used correctly, and infractions to occupancy limits
WorkSafeBC inspectors found that more than half of the Whistler businesses they looked at had COVID-19 infractions.

More than half of the Whistler businesses WorkSafe BC visited as part of an inspection blitz Jan. 30 and 31 were cited for a violation to COVID-19 regulations.  

Inspectors wrote orders for 35 of the 62 workplaces they visited, said Al Johnson, head of prevention services.  

“An order is written when there’s a violation to the regulation,” he said. “Generally speaking, what an order would mean is part of their COVID-safety plan needed improvement.” 

Some common infractions included employers not conducting proper health checks, not having proper equipment available or used correctly, and infractions to occupancy limits, particularly in places like lunch rooms or washrooms for employees.  

“We were a little surprised out of 62 inspections, a handful didn’t have a COVID safety plan,” Johnson said. “That is basic. After a year of us and everyone else saying, ‘You need a COVID safety plan,’ we were surprised a few didn’t have a plan. That’s not to say they weren’t doing something; they didn’t have a written plan.”  

In addition to the seven prevention officers who visited Whistler, nine consultants also called 38 local businesses for phone consultations.  

At the same time, Vancouver Coastal Health sent public health officers to inspect primarily bars and restaurants.  

“I would say businesses were fairly receptive of us doing our Whistler inspection initiative,” Johnson said. “No one likes to see a WorkSafe inspector, so to speak, on any worksite on any issue, but we really are there to try to ensure they’re doing what they need to do and know what they need to do.”  

According to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, it worked.  

During a press conference on Monday, Feb. 8, she said educational efforts continued in the resort over last weekend and the number of cases is down. 

“There is still transmission happening and I know there was quite an impact from what WorkSafe and Environmental Health Officers did with a number of the restaurants, bars, and retail outlets last weekend,” Henry said. “From what we hear, it was a reasonable weekend. There are still long lines waiting for … the lifts to the ski hill. That’s something that is challenging for people and I think there’s more that still needs to be done to engage with the community so that, for the next number of weeks of the season, there’s a reasonable approach.”

The workplace inspections were centred in high-density areas and focused on retail, grocery and liquor stores, hotels, and ski operations said the Whistler Chamber of Commerce in its newsletter.

“If business owners need any help in developing and implementing their COVID-19 Safety Plan, go2HR’s COVID-19 Safety Plan Review Initiative is an excellent resource, and is complimentary and confidential,” said the Chamber.

“The Whistler Chamber, WorkSafeBC and go2HR will continue to collaborate to provide Whistler businesses with all the support and resources they need in fulfilling these obligations.”