In accordance with direction from the provincial health officer, workplaces with COVID-19 transmission may be ordered to close.
When workers in a workplace test positive for COVID-19 and public health confirms transmission has occurred in the work environment, the workplace may be ordered to close for 10 days or longer.
For larger workplaces, the closure may be restricted to the locations where transmission has occurred.
Exceptions may be made for some workplaces. Visit the B.C. government’s province-wide restrictions page for more details.
On June 17, as part of BC’s Restart plan, the provincial health officer issued a statement for employers on transitioning from a COVID-19 safety plan to communicable disease prevention. Review communicable disease prevention guidance from WorkSafeBC.
Workplace closure Q&A for employers and employees
Why are you closing workplaces to address the transmission of COVID-19?
Transmission of COVID-19 can occur in workplaces. Closing these workplaces with COVID-19 transmission can prevent additional workers from becoming infected and taking COVID-19 home to their families and their communities.
Why has my workplace been ordered to close?
If a person with COVID-19 worked while infectious to others, public health will investigate to identify and isolate any close workplace contacts. If public health determines that transmission occurred at the workplace, an order may be issued to close the workplace to prevent further transmission and to allow time for the workplace to review their communicable disease plan and COVID-19 infection control measures. In the case of complex workplaces (e.g. large construction sites), the closure may be restricted to those parts of the workplace where transmission has occurred or other preventive measures may be implemented.
The public health investigation, prior to the closure of a workplace, includes interviewing all identified COVID-19 cases and close contacts. In addition, public health’s environmental health officers, or WorkSafeBC, may conduct an on-site inspection. The decision to close a worksite is made by a public health medical health officer.
What can I expect during the closure period?
During the closure period, public health will continue to follow all COVID-19 cases and their close contacts. Public health may need to inspect the site either during the period the business is closed or at the time of reopening.
Employers will be recommended to review their communicable disease plan and potentially re-institute some COVID-19 infection control measures before reopening to reduce the risk of workplace transmission.
Public health will let the employer know as soon as possible if any changes to the initial reopening timeline are expected.
The decision to close a workplace is the responsibility of a public health medical health officer. Health authority environmental health officers have the authority to deliver closure orders. When a closure order is delivered, the environmental health officer will approve a list of people who are able to enter during the closure for safety and security reasons or to implement COVID-19 prevention measures.
Can I have further details on the cases identified at my workplace? How do you assess for transmission?
At the time of closure, public health will advise workplace management of the reason for the closure and the number of identified COVID-19 cases associated with transmission at the worksite. Due to patient confidentiality, the names of cases and close contacts will not be shared unless required for public health investigation or decision-making.
Can staff work at other workplaces during the closure?
Staff members identified as known close contacts of a case by public health will be assessed, including a review of their COVID-19 immunization status. If isolation is recommended for the close contacts, they will need to isolate for a minimum of 10 days after their last exposure to a case as well as monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days after their last exposure to a case. They are to follow public health guidance regarding COVID-19 testing.
Staff members not formally identified as close contacts will be asked to self-monitor for any symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days and to seek assessment and testing if symptoms develop. They will also be advised to carefully follow all public health guidance and to strictly follow COVID-19 infection control measures if they work elsewhere during this period.
Can staff be vaccinated?
Staff should be encouraged to register and get vaccinated through gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated. All residents five years of age and older are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. Second doses will be scheduled according to the provincially determined interval. Staff who are required to isolate as per public health, can receive their COVID-19 vaccine after their isolation has been completed and they do not have any symptoms of COVID-19.
Why wasn’t another business with cases closed?
Closures only occur if transmission is likely to have happened within the workplace, as determined by a public health investigation. Most COVID-19 cases acquire infection through household or social exposures and do not transmit it to others at their workplace, therefore the identification of workers with infection at a worksite does not always result in closure. Even if transmission has occurred, some workplaces may be able to remain open or partially open if it is determined a closure would not be in the overriding public interest. Some examples of this could include police and fire stations, health care facilities, grocery stores, schools, daycares, courthouses, distribution hubs for necessary goods and other workplaces as determined by the medical health officer.