All Canadian occupational health and safety legislation requires employers to have procedures and a process in place to respond to emergencies. Certain legislation are specific others are very broad.
For example, the Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health Act and Regulation indicate that an employer must take measures to identify existing and potential dangers to workers at the workplace and to reduce, eliminate or control those dangers, including through the creation of procedures to be followed in an emergency. The Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health Act Regulations, section 7.4(5) states “A workplace safety and health program must include the identification of internal and external resources, including personnel and equipment, that may be required to respond to an emergency at the workplace.” Other provinces and territories have similar language.
Emergency response or pandemic plan is an established process of preparing and planning for, mitigating, responding to and recovering from an emergency. Providing proper training, conducting drills, testing equipment and coordinating activities with the federal and provincial governments, municipalities, community and health organizations are other important functions and areas of your organization. Remember that the definition of an “emergency” may include “disease or health risk”.
Moreover, employers should have in place pandemic and emergency preparedness response and business continuity plans and policies to deal with all emergency situations including the influenza outbreak or a coronavirus type of virus outbreak or a full-blown pandemic. This proactive approach for employers is to always avoid any business disruptions or mishandling of a situation and to protect the health and safety of workers.
These plans should be periodically reviewed, even during a state of emergency or pandemic to ensure it is always up-to-date with any new developments put in place.
Employers also need to ensure that these plans meet the special needs of employees and persons with disabilities. Workplace health and safety committees or representatives have a legal right to participate in the development of any workplace prevention and preparation strategies.
For more information on how to prepare such a plan, what policies and procedures should be included, consult our Emergency response and business continuity how-to guide.
Subscribers can also find information on emergency preparedness and pandemic planning in The Human Resources Advisor and PolicyPro. Login to My Account and check out the Health and Safety section in both products.