Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Hazard assessments and COVID-19

One of the challenges employers face is operating safely during COVID-19. In Alberta, employers have an obligation to identify and control hazards. Usually, hazard assessments are private processes, known only to the employer, some employees and (if there is one) the joint health and safety committee.

Recently, an Alberta employer (Prairie Dog Brewing) made an interesting post where they talked through some of the COVID-19 hazards they have identified as the think about re-opening, possible controls, and their eventual decision. This post is interesting for a couple of reasons:
  1. The owners walk through both obvious (serving customers) and less obvious (dishwashing) hazards in some details.
  2. The post then explores possible controls for the hazards and how effective they will be. This analysis is very thoughtful.
  3. In the end, the owners decide to adopt an elimination control by not opening for sit-down service, rather than opening using PPE (which is likely not very effective but probably would meet the legal minimum).
  4. The owners discuss explicitly the costs associated with their control options and how this influences their decision making. While primarily financial, these costs alsl include staff resistance and customer violence.
  5. The owners examine how businesses face an incentive not to report positive COVID cases and suggests public policy measure that might solve this problem.
For OHS students, this post represents a candid peak behind the curtain at a hazard assessment as applied in the real world.

-- Bob Barnetson

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