A new public health order has expanded the powers of British Columbia’s medical health officers in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. The Expedited Workplace Closure order, in effect since April 12, allows medical health officers to temporarily close workplaces where one or more persons has become infected with COVID-19 and it is necessary for the workplace, or part of the workplace, to stop operating in order to prevent further transmission. Businesses subject to an order may be closed for 10 days or longer.

With workplaces identified as one of the most common sources of transmission, the order attempts to quell the recent surge in the number of people infected with COVID-19.

WorkSafeBC prevention officers will serve closure notices and will support the business in reviewing and the enhancing COVID-19 Safety Plans. The names of businesses ordered to close and their re-opening dates are publicly posted on public health authorities’ websites. As of publication, 34 businesses have been closed in the lower mainland.

According to the Joint Statement issued by Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, closures may be subject to an overriding public interest to keep the workplace open. Examples of potential workplaces which may not be ordered to close are:

  • Police Stations and Fire Halls;
  • Health-Care Facilities;
  • Schools;
  • Shelters;
  • Ferries and Public Transportation; and
  • Pharmacies and Grocery Stores.

These powers are in addition to, and do not replace, any existing powers of WorkSafeBC with respect to health and safety in the workplace, including in respect of COVID-19. With increased COVID-19 cases and strengthened public health enforcement, employers should review their COVID-19 Safety Plans (discussed in Pushing reset: What BC’s Restart Plan means for employers and BC Restart Plan Phase 2: Further guidance for COVID-19 Safety Plans‎) to confirm that all appropriate measures are being taken in order to protect the health and safety of workers and the public, and to limit transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.

We will continue to monitor and provide updates as soon as they become available. The COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving with new measures being adopted ‎or modified at both ‎the ‎federal and provincial level. For further information, please consult our ‎Coronavirus Resource ‎Centre or feel free to contact any member of our DLA Piper Canadian Employment and ‎Labour Law Service ‎Group, who will ‎ensure that you are acting upon the most up-to-date information.

This article provides only general information about legal issues and developments, and is not intended to provide specific legal advice.  Please see our disclaimer for more details.