Some New Brunswick businesses still without operational plan to deal with COVID-19

·2 min read

FREDERICTON — Compliance officers are still catching businesses in New Brunswick with inadequate COVID-19 operational plans — or no plan at all, nearly a year after companies were required to create them.

Tim Petersen, vice-president prevention at WorkSafeNB, says the government agency's officers have issued about 900 compliance orders and 80 stop-work orders since March 2020.

"Those are instances where the workplaces haven't had any plan or any real idea what they need to put in place, and we've identified that has put people at significant risk in that moment," Petersen said in an interview Tuesday, about stop-work orders.

Most of the stop-work orders have been issued since the start of 2021, he added.

Petersen said his officers help businesses create COVID-19 plans and will often spend hours with a business owner to ensure they understand the rules and can comply. "The intent is not to catch people, it's to help them out," he said.

WorkSafeNB offers templates on its website that businesses can use to complete their plan. He said there has been one instance in which a business was charged for refusing to comply; that case is before the courts. Petersen would not comment on the specifics of that case but said legislation includes fines of up to $250,000 for non-compliance.

He said officers have conducted inspection blitzes in areas of the province where the number of COVID-19 cases have been high, adding that many of the stop-work orders have been given as a result of the blitzes.

Fredericton Chamber of Commerce CEO Krista Ross said her organization has encouraged its members to follow the rules and that she is surprised to hear some businesses in the province are not complying with health orders.

The Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton chambers joined forces at the start of the pandemic last year to develop a guide, which included details on how to create an operational plan.

"We certainly have been talking to our members, which is more than 1,000 businesses and organizations in Fredericton, that this is a necessity," Ross said in an interview Wednesday. "It is a requirement to being open and we strongly encourage them to have these in place."

Ross said the Fredericton Chamber will remind its members to comply. "It is a plan for how to operate your business safely during times with COVID and how to deal with situations as they arise," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2021.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press