Social Distancing and Working Alone in the Municipal Sector

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety

As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, all public sector workers are experiencing profound changes in their work. Social distancing is requiring work to be rearranged in ways that minimize contact with other people. In the municipal sector, this is leading to more and more situations where municipal employees are working alone. 

Working alone is often misunderstood. There may be situations where multiple people are working in the same building, but if their work duties don’t bring them into regular contact with one another, they are working alone. A worker is working alone if help would not be readily available when needed. It is not enough that workers have access to cell phones. A worker must be conscious to use the phone, and any number of injuries or medical emergencies could prevent them from calling for help.

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COVID-19: Q & A for Care Providers

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety

How do we practice social distancing at work?

To the best of our ability. Many public sector workers are in workplaces that have been deemed essential and will continue to operate during the pandemic. In this context social distancing is a hazard control and must be followed whenever possible. Work should be arranged to minimize the direct contact workers have with one another and with clients/the public. In cases where distance cannot be maintained, frequent handwashing, disinfecting of commonly touched surfaces and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is recommended.

My co-workers aren’t practicing social distancing. What can I do?

Social distancing is now a form of “safe work procedure” in use by most workplaces. Just like with any other safety protocols, if they are not being followed, that creates an unsafe situation that should be reported to the employer. Reporting is not the same thing as “ratting”; reporting gets someone out of trouble (such as by ensuring protocols that protect us all are being followed). “Ratting” is getting someone else in trouble without enhancing safety for others.

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Child Care for Essential Workers

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety

Photo by jeniffertn

Many CUPE members have questions about child care during this very challenging time. Essential workers who are providing health and critical public services during the pandemic and who do not have access to child care may be eligible for government-sponsored child care.

  • Limited child care services will be available for children ages one to 13 years in existing child care centres, family child care homes, and schools, subject to availability.
  • Existing health and safety requirements will apply but reduced child care group sizes will be implemented in order to protect the safety of staff and children as recommended by public health.
  • Regulated child care services typically operate between 7:30am-5:30pm, Monday-Friday.
  • School-based child care will be available for school-aged children only and will operate between 8:00am-5:00pm, Monday-Friday.

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Q & A on Right to Refuse and Personal Protective Equipment

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety

Can I use my right to refuse for COVID-19?

Employees have a right to refuse unsafe work when there are reasonable grounds to believe that the work, tool, or equipment is dangerous to you or another person’s health and safety. Many situations could create a dangerous condition in your workplace and COVID-19 is no exception. For most workers, especially those in a health care workplace, the presence of a communicable disease isn’t automatically dangerous, as long as you have the training and appropriate resources, including personal protective equipment (PPE) to do the work safely.

When do I need to use Personal Protective Equipment?

Working with residents or patients who are suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 is hazardous work, and PPE is an important tool that allows your work to be performed safely. COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets so the PPE for those providing care would include a mask to cover your mouth, goggles or a face shield to cover your eyes, a gown to cover your clothing, and gloves to protect your hands. Lacking any of these resources would make the work more hazardous and could lead to a dangerous situation.

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“You are all heroes in this global pandemic”

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety

On behalf of CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador I personally want to thank all CUPE members for doing their part in this complex and unprecedented situation.

CUPE members are doing critical work across the province, especially our frontline health care workers. Thank you for your dedication to your work, and the extraordinary effort that you deliver each day. To quote our National President, Mark Hancock, “you are all heroes in this global pandemic.”

I have been working with other unions and government daily to ensure we are doing what is best for you and your families. We need health care workers to be as protected as can be from COVID-19.

Just this week we agreed to a Good Neighbour Agreement that was signed by all four health care unions. We are continuing our work to secure adequate Personal Protective Equipment and PPE training and fit testing for those who need it.

Also this week we helped to secure child care for our essential workers. You can find out more including how to apply on the government website: https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/essential-worker-child-care-service-application-form/.

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CUPE signs Good Neighbour Agreement with employer and other health care unions

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety

Please note, the Good Neighbour Agreement applies to our health care members only.

Yesterday, CUPE and other unions representing health care workers signed a Good Neighbour Agreement with the Regional Health Authorities and the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information.

This agreement will ensure a planned and timely response to the COVID-19 pandemic in our health care system.

Good Neighbour Agreements are often put in place during emergencies. We signed one in 2009 for the H1N1 pandemic and several provinces already have Good Neighbour Agreements in place for COVID-19.

The agreement determines how health human resources will be shared and how health-care providers will be compensated and protected as we respond to COVID-19.

It will help ensure the health and safety of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, while protecting health care workers on the front lines of COVID-19.

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COVID-19: Provincial Update; Eastern and Western Health

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety

PROVINCIAL UPDATE

  • There are 20 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 102 cases province-wide.
  • One person has been hospitalized.
  • 68 of the cases are directly or indirectly related to a service at Caul’s funeral home in St. John’s last week.
  • Health-care facilities in the four health regions are down to one access point per building with security on site for screening.
  • Government is working on a plan to get income support and other cheques to people on April 1. Mail delivery continues to be shut down in St. John’s due to a positive test for an employee.
  • The government is looking at moving patients to long term care, and other facilities they wouldn’t normally use, in the event that bed capacity becomes an issue.  Currently, since all elective procedures were cancelled almost two weeks ago, there are no issues with bed capacity.

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COVID-19 UPDATE: Provincial Measures; Eastern and Western Health

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety

PROVINCIAL UPDATE

  • There are 15 new cases of COVID-19 in the Eastern Health region, which brings the provincial total to 82.
  • Ages range from 8 to 80, and all are recovering at home. There have been no hospitalizations to date.
  • Testing is now being done in the province’s microbiology lab, rather than Winnipeg.
  • The provincial legislature has resumed sitting to debate legislation related to COVID-19.
  • Proposed amendments to the Labour Standards Act include a leave of absence without pay and job protection for employees affected by COVID-19.
  • Other proposed amendments include protection from eviction for tenants who cannot pay rent because of COVID-19, and measures to insure the delivery of government services such as health care.
  • New ferry restrictions are in place limiting passenger numbers, requiring passengers to stay in vehicles and allowing only essential travel.
  • Businesses with government contracts are required to continue to employ employees who were hired prior to the health emergency declaration, as government continues to pay the companies.
  • Home support workers are considered essential workers and should check with the government website under resources for information on how to work in this environment.

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COVID-19 UPDATE: Provincial, Federal and Regional Measures

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety, Uncategorized

PROVINCIAL UPDATE

  • There are 32 new presumptive cases of COVID-19. One of these is in the Western Health region, making it the first in this area. The other 31 cases are in the Eastern Health region.
  • This brings the total number of cases in the province to 67.
  • New measures to prevent the spread of the virus include cancelling driver’s licences for people who defy orders to self-isolate.
  • The province will allow limited operation of regulated child-care services for children aged 1-13. This service will be provided at no cost to help support essential workers who have no other options. This includes health-care workers, paramedics, police, corrections officers, firefighters, early childhood educators and other public servants required to work during the pandemic. An application form is available at gov.nl.ca/covid-19/.
  • $500,000 has been allotted for food security for those in jeopardy.  A task force is looking at options for distribution.
  • DRL Bus Lines has been taken off the road effective tonight.

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