COVID concerns in the workplace

·2 min read

There's concern about the rising number of COVID cases in town and in the province, and some local employees are worried about safety at their workplaces.

Ginette Marcoux, executive director of Jasper Employment & Education Centre, said the office has had a number of calls from employees seeking information and expressing concern about their safety in going to work as COVID-19 numbers rise.

"Everyone is stressed about COVID and the numbers,” she said.

"They're expressing concern that their employers are not going far enough to keep workers safe. If the staff don't feel safe, it'll transfer to the workplace as a whole.”

Marcoux said if people are unclear if practices violate any safety protocols around COVID, they should call Occupational Health and Safety.

But she encourages people to work with their employer first.

"It's supposed to be a joint effort between the employer and employee," she said. "If the employer refuses to acknowledge the problem or refuses to solve the problem, then an employee is within their rights to file a complaint online."

Marcoux noted in an email that employers have an obligation to review their workplace hazard documents.

If the documents do not contain information specific to viral hazards, they have to be revised to include information about controlling or eliminating risks associated with exposure to viruses.

Marcoux urged employers to consider current rules and public health orders when they're reviewing the documents.

"There is an obligation for employers to inform employees of the health hazards associated with COVID-19 which they could face at work and provide training on the procedures,” she said.

The Internal Responsibility System (IRS) is the underlying philosophy of the occupational health and safety legislation in all Canadian jurisdictions. It is in place to resolve workplace concerns. Marcoux explained the IRS "puts in place an employee-employer partnership in ensuring a safe and disease free workplace".

She said, "Its foundation is that everyone in the workplace - both employees and employers - is responsible for his or her own safety and for the safety of coworkers.

“However, it holds employers responsible for determining such steps to ensure health and safety of all employees.”

The IRS establishes responsibility sharing systems, promotes safety culture and best practice, helps develop self reliance and ensures compliance.

Marcoux noted the Canada Recovery Sick Benefit may help some people. It's for people who are sick or need to self isolate due to COVID-19 or have underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk.

Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh