VANCOUVER -- The much-anticipated pandemic operating guidelines from WorkSafeBC are now public, outlining many precautions operators have been waiting for.

With details now provided in documents for the food service, personal service, office, outdoor and retail industries, businesses now have a road map to follow for reopening.

Some of those rules include reducing or eliminating shared tools and workspaces, mandating masks for some workers and customers, and requiring disposable menus and limits on table sizes at restaurants.

Even so, the province's top doctor has emphasized businesses are not compelled to do reopen and should take their time, only opening when they’re ready. 

“Every employer is required to have a COVID-19 safety plan that assesses the risk of exposure at their worksite and implements measures to keep their workers safe,” said Al Johnson, head of prevention services at WorkSafeBC in a news release.

Limiting the number of employees and patrons or patients in a workplace is required as the first level of protection, as is the implementation of protocols to keep people at least two metres apart. 

The second level includes installing Plexiglas barriers if that distance can’t be maintained while the third level of protection involves enhanced cleaning and one-way hallways plus avoiding sharing tools or equipment.

“If the first three levels of protection aren’t enough to control the risks, have workers and customers use personal protective equipment such as masks. PPE should not be used as the only control measure,” the guidelines say. “It should only be used in combination with other measures.

WorkSafeBC’s website also includes a form to help companies implement individual plans, that must be posted. They’re encouraging employers to work with employees on their plans and implementation.

"We want employers and workplace to succeed so we want them to create robust plans and if that requires a little of our own input, call us," Johnson told CTV News. "At the same time, we realize that we are the regulator in the province and so we need to ensure that once those plans are developed and once those plans are in place, we will have prevention officers inspecting workplaces to verify workers and people are following and employers are ensuring the place is safe."

Restaurants, cafes, pubs

While the provincial health officer hasn’t given them a date they can resume in-person dining, food service establishments can seat no more than six people together when they do so.

Servers are expected to leave food at the table and step away for customers to retrieve it and pass it around. Salt and pepper shakers can no longer be left on tables and must be sanitized after use while thorough cleaning between table seatings is mandatory.

The BC Restaurant and Food Service Association says it's pleased that there are no set numbers or percentages for occupancy. 

“Instead, operators will need to calculate how many tables of six will fit into their space to determine their occupancy,” the organization said in a news release. “You must allow for two metres between tables and factor in space for seats at the table.”

“We feel good about it because we authored a lot of the information that’s in WorkSafe’s program," said BC Restaurant and Foodservice Association president Ian Tostensen. “A restaurant won’t open, regardless of COVID, in an unsafe manner. So they have a duty to make sure their staff are safe and the guest is safe.”

For workers, the regulations state, “If it is not possible to maintain physical distance at all times, employers may consider the use of masks as an additional measure.”

More details can be seen online


Rearranging layouts and limiting the number of customers in the store are high priorities to maintain physical distancing, but masks are going to be the norm in retail outlets.

The regulations state that "if it is not possible to maintain physical distance with clients, consider the use of masks…it is therefore important to ensure that customers are wearing masks as well as the workers to ensure protection for both parties."

The regulations don't prohibit trying on clothing, but they advise that customers should leave unwanted items in the change room and those rooms should get a thorough cleaning between customers. Online orders are encouraged as much as possible. 

Anticipating issues with compliance, particularly around lineups, WorkSafe recommends employers "ensure that they have support and strategies for dealing with customers who may be unwilling or who are unable to understand the approach to managing volumes."

More details can be seen online

Personal services

First and foremost, WorkSafeBC says "clients should be required to wear masks for these services to protect workers. Workers should also wear masks to protect clients."

Removing magazines, product testers and unnecessary items from the waiting area and keeping work stations two metres apart will be the next task for barbers, hair dressers, nail technicians, aestheticians and similar businesses. 

“(The guidelines) weren’t too onerous, they weren’t too demanding. They’re very achievable, and that’s important,” said BC Beauty Council executive director Greg Robins. "The wonderful thing about WorkSafeBC is that they provide a very scientific approach to safety in the workplace and they present it in a way that’s doable and achievable”

Requiring customers and staff who feel sick to stay home, and having them wash their hands or use hand sanitizer when they arrive must become standard. Drinks are allowed, but only in disposable containers.

Facials and waxing that would require the removal of a mask are strongly discouraged and smocks or aprons over personal clothing is encouraged for workers, but must be laundered at the end of each day.

More details here.


Staggered start and end times are recommended, reducing shared work stations are encouraged, as are designated entry and exit doors with hand sanitizer available.

Continuing teleconferences and remote working, as well as having work cohorts who operate in a type of bubble are also encouraged. Limited occupancy for elevators is also a requirement. Shared equipment like photocopiers should be frequently cleaned and only used if necessary.

Workers will be encouraged to eat outside or at their desks too. 

Details here.

Health services

Much like offices and personal services, keeping distance between employees and customers and limiting the number indoors are all priorities but screening for COVID-19 symptoms and conducting virtual appointments where possible are emphasized for dentists and similar health service providers.

Strict hand hygiene protocols between patients and the ability to work out of their own treatment room are highly recommended and sanitizing between patients is mandatory. 

WorkSafeBC requires employees change out of their work clothes before going home and wash their work clothes daily, insisting they shower immediately when they go home. Workers must also be trained in donning and doffing PPE appropriately.

More here.


WorkSafeBC warns helicopters, ATVs and boats should only be used for essential purposes. 

Visitors should expect to see hand sanitizer at parks and outdoor venues with shared machinery and fixtures wiped down regularly.

Workers should maintain two metres between each other, even if it means travelling in separate vehicles, end of shift sanitation has to be thorough and employers requiring they wear masks if in close quarters.

More on parks here.  

In-person counselling

Family pods are allowed to sit together, but the recommendations suggest outside and virtual counselling sessions whenever possible. Many of the same requirements included in personal services and offices apply, in addition to ensuring tissues and disinfecting wipes are disposed of in a lined trash can. Touchless hand sanitizers and garbage bins are encouraged.

More online

Museums, art galleries and libraries

Physical barriers between customers and staff, encouragement of self-guided tours, ample hand sanitizer and avoidance of items like physical tickets are all highlighted in the regulations. There can be groups of up to 50 people but only if the venue is big enough for everyone to maintain a two-metre distance between each other.

Libraries should have one-way aisles and reduce the number of people, computers and chairs available to maintain physical distancing.

More details here

Real estate

Encouraging virtual viewings and electronic correspondence is key, but the new recommendations say in-person visits must be limited, ideally by appointment.

"Real estate professionals should make their best attempt to refrain from showing multiple properties in a single day to help minimize cross-contamination," the regulations say. 

Realtors and buyers alike are encouraged to wear masks and disposable foot coverings while sellers are advised to disinfect all high-touch areas.

Details here.