These past few weeks have been particularly stressful with Omicron spreading rapidly through our communities and schools. I know you are all doing your very best to keep your students, colleagues, and selves safe with the measures and tools available to you, and I extend my deep thanks for your unwavering commitment to keeping students engaged in their learning despite these great challenges.
I want to assure you that we do not believe the current K–12 guidelines go far enough to make you feel safe and protected, and we are continuing to advocate strongly for outstanding areas of concern needing to be addressed. In particular, the current focus areas of our advocacy are ensuring all teachers have access to an adequate supply of N95 masks, HVAC upgrades to MERV-13 standard are completed promptly (or HEPA filters are brought in), teachers have access to an adequate supply of rapid tests, and that government strengthen its efforts to promote mask compliance and increase vaccination rates among students.
We’re aware of some uncertainty amongst members in regard to the WorkSafeBC process and criteria for COVID-19 infection claims, and we have also been fielding a significant number of questions about declaring unsafe work. As such, we’ve compiled some important information and resources on these topics and other health and safety matters.
In the sections below, you’ll find the most current information regarding:
- revised WorkSafeBC requirements for COVID-19 infection claims.
- how to get support with a WorkSafeBC claim.
- process and criteria for refusing unsafe work.
- where to find all BCTF guidance related to health and safety.
WorkSafeBC claims for COVID-19 infection: What you need to know
WorkSafeBC recently released updated guidance on adjudicating COVID-19 claims, which can be found here.
The updated guidance now confirms that a positive test (PCR or otherwise) is not required for WorkSafeBC to adjudicate a COVID-19 claim.
If the PCR test was not done, the adjudicator will then ask the claimant what other evidence they have of a COVID-19 infection and weigh that evidence to determine if the worker has a COVID-19 claim. This includes evidence of a different type of positive test, a medical diagnosis, or other evidence that supports the worker has contracted COVID-19, such as another staff member or student with a diagnosed COVID-19 infection.
If you believe you contracted COVID-19 at work, we strongly encourage you to file a claim with WorkSafeBC. Filing a claim is important in the short term to protect your sick leave provisions. It’s also important should you experience longer lasting effects related to contracting COVID-19.
Need support with a WorkSafeBC claim?
Instructions for how to file a WorkSafeBC claim can be found on our website here. If you require assistance with your WorkSafeBC claim, please contact the BCTF WorkSafeBC Advocate Luke Olver at 1-800-663-9163, local 1890, or email email@example.com.
Refusing unsafe work
All workers have the right to refuse unsafe work. Learn more about your rights and the process for refusing unsafe work here. You are strongly encouraged to contact your local union office and work with your school-based Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee to support you through this process.
Where to find all health and safety resources and guidance
We have compiled detailed health and safety guidance and links to external resources on our website. There you will find information on:
- how to get help with an active health and safety issue at your workplace.
- requesting an appeal or review of a WorkSafeBC decision.
- health and safety guidelines, including BCTF factsheets and guidance on topics such as filing claims, harassment, reporting injuries, refusing unsafe work, and investigations; and WorkSafeBC information specific to teachers.
- WorkSafeBC forms and their links.
- current health and safety updates.
The BCTF and its locals are here for our members. If you feel unsafe or unsupported in your workplace, reach out to your local office for guidance and assistance. BCTF staff work closely with locals to ensure they are equipped to directly support our members throughout the province.
Once again, thank you to our teachers, local officers, and members of the joint occupational health and safety committees throughout BC.
We’re in this together, and we’ll get through this together.