Employer Policies Regarding Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Many of the Employers we deal with have recently implemented mandatory mask policies for members at work. We have been receiving a high volume of calls from members with questions about their rights concerning these policies so we wanted to share the following facts:
As of May 14, 2020, all provincial employers are specifically required, by Order of the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), to develop a COVID-19 Safety Plan. Employers are responding to the current COVID-19 pandemic, and this Order, by implementing policies designed to keep customers and employees (our members) safe, as the retail grocery is a designated essential industry. Company policies that are designed to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission are required by Order of the PHO.
Although the wearing of masks by our members in the workplace is not yet a mandatory requirement from the PHO, it is within the company’s management rights and health and safety obligations under the Workers Compensation Act (WCA) to implement a policy that calls for the mandatory use of masks.
Companies have the right to formulate, enforce, revise and administer rules, policies and procedures covering their operations, including safety. Furthermore, most collective agreements, and certainly section 21 of the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA), place a duty upon companies to ensure the health and safety of their workers and the visiting public.
As employees you also have a duty under section 22 of WCA to take reasonable care to protect your own health and safety, and the health and safety of other persons in the workplace or who may otherwise be affected by the your actions at work.
Company policies requiring the mandatory wearing of masks (or possibly face shields) in the workplace also gives rise to the Company’s duty to accommodate employees who may be unable to oblige to wear a mask. For example, if you have an underlying medical condition or disability which inhibits your ability to wear a mask, your employer may have to offer you the option of wearing a face shield if the circumstances warrant. Or, if you are unable to place or remove a mask or face covering without assistance, the Company will have to consider finding a way to accommodate you.
Since masks (and face shields) are personal protective safety equipment (PPE), the Company is required to provide you with this equipment at their expense according to WCA s. 21(2)(d).
If you have any questions, always feel free to reach out to your Union servicing representative.