COVID-19: Workplace measures to prevent exposure to infectious viruses

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety

Workers in some sectors (for example, health care and transportation) have a greater likelihood of exposure to viruses and other disease-causing agents. Employers have a general duty to take every precaution reasonable to protect workers from hazards in their workplaces. Employers in these sectors should already have effective plans in place for regular day-to-day interactions.

When new viruses are identified, employers should follow a hazard-assessment methodology, that looks at the virus and considers if existing controls are appropriate. Assessment should always be in consultation with health and safety committees or worker representatives. The goal of prevention plans must be to eliminate exposure to the infectious virus as much as possible.

CUPE is calling on all workplaces to be proactive in preventing the spread of COVID-19, by implementing the following practices:

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

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety

Up-to-date information on the coronavirus, including how to recognize symptoms and how to stop transmission is available at: cupe.ca/coronavirus.

PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT UPDATE

  • As of March 24, there are 35 presumptive and confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • The 11 new presumptive cases are all within the Eastern Health region.
  • The Chief Medical Officer of Health has ordered closures of all private health clinics, with the exception of physicians and nurse practitioners. Clinicians can reopen for emergencies.
  • Dentists, optometrists, physiotherapists, dietitians, chiropractors, psychologists, registered massage therapists, osteopaths, dental hygienists, acupuncturists and audiologists are expected to close clinics as well.
  • The premier has asked all non-essential businesses to close to stop the spread of the virus
  • Residents have been asked to socialize only when necessary, in groups of less than 10.

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Health Coalitions’ Joint Statement on COVID-19 and Public Health Care

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the extent to which our individual health is dependent on the health of everyone in our community. Public healthcare is our best defense against this crisis and others like it. However, our ability to endure crises and care for each other has been eroded through decades of austerity budgets, privatization and inadequate planning. Even during “normal times,” the health care system is at capacity.

While health care workers and communities are struggling to support each other, corporate interests are trying to profit. This must be resisted. The solution is not privatization. Instead, we should be strengthening universal health care and our collective ability to care for one another.

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COVID-19: Updates from Government; Eastern and Western Health

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety

We know this is a very difficult time for public sector workers in all sectors — those on the front lines and behind the scenes, those who have been ordered to work from home, those working without child care, and those who are facing layoffs, not to mention the general anxiety as our world as we know it changes hour by hour. Staff and union executives are working very hard to make sure important information is shared with our members and that members’ concerns are responded to as quickly as possible.

I have been attending conference calls with government and other unions on a regular basis and our concerns are being heard. These meetings will continue as long as necessary as we work out the details of how this pandemic will be managed with minimal harm to public sector employees.

We appreciate everything you are doing to hold it together. Please do not hesitate to contact me if there is anything I can do to help.

Please read the important information below for the latest updates from Eastern and Western Health.

Stay safe, and be well,

Sherry Hillier
CUPE NL President

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COVID-19 and Income Supports for Workers Q and A

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety

What is your situation? 

I am an employee with COVID-19 and/or in isolation: 

  • Your employer may have a short-term disability or sick leave program that you need to apply for before applying for EI Sickness Benefits. Check your collective agreement or contact your CUPE local.
  • If you have worked more than 600 hours in the past year or since your last EI claim, you qualify for EI sickness benefits. For more information on EI Sickness Benefits, check out the section on EI below.
  • If you have not worked more than 600 hours in the past year or since your last EI claim, the federal government is providing an Emergency Care Benefit, which will provide benefits comparable to EI for up to 15 weeks. More details will be forthcoming from the Federal government.
  • Your job will be protected during this leave of absence by federal and provincial legislation.

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COVID-19 UPDATE: Eastern Health

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety

Important information from Eastern Health President and CEO, David Diamond

Please know that the leadership group at Eastern Health is committed to supporting your safety and well-being. We continue to work closely with federal and provincial organizations on pandemic planning efforts, as well as Workplace, Health and Safety, Infection Prevention and Control and other teams, within the structure of the Emergency Operations Centre to keep everyone safe. We are also connected in with the provincial government, through the Department of Health and Community Services, and are committed to regular meetings with unions to address employee issues.

Taking care of yourselves, your families and those around you is more important than ever. Please know that we are continuing to explore work for home options for those staff who are not needed in our facilities at this time, and will share more information as it becomes available. As the situation unfolds over the next days, weeks and months, I encourage you to seek assistance and/or participate in any of the following as you see necessary:

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COVID-19 UPDATE: Precautionary Principle, Federal Income Support and Provincial Measures

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety

Precautionary Principle

Knowledge about how COVID-19 is transmitted has yet to be fully understood. For this reason, CUPE is recommending that health care settings adopt the precautionary principle towards infection prevention and control of COVID-19. The precautionary principle means taking action to prevent infection from potentially serious viruses without having to wait for complete scientific proof that a course of action is necessary. While there is continued uncertainty about whether or not the virus is spread through the air, we must conduct ourselves as if it is. For that reason, CUPE is recommending that health care workers who are in direct contact (within 2 meters) with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 request a fit-tested, seal-checked N95 respirator covering the nose and mouth.

Federal Income Support

What was in the federal government’s March 18 announcement:

  • A new Emergency Care Benefit that will apply to workers who do not qualify for Employment Insurance and who are in isolation, caring for a sick family member, and/or providing childcare.
    • The benefit will provide a maximum of $450 per week for up to 15 weeks.
    • Parents who are unable to work because they need to provide childcare due to school closures are eligible even if they do qualify for EI.

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COVID-19 UPDATE: Personal Protective Equipment

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety, Uncategorized

Fact vs Myth: Personal Protective Equipment

While our workplaces prepare to confront the threat of COVID-19 there have been many discussions around Personal Protective Equipment and the role it can play in protecting members from communicable diseases like COVID-19, especially those situations where respiratory protection is required. With these discussions occurring in many workplaces we wanted to ensure CUPE locals have a reference for understanding the options in respiratory protection devices and what their relative strengths and weaknesses are.

Types of respiratory protection

There are a number of respiratory protection products on the market. They do not all offer the same level of protection.

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COVID-19 UPDATE: Advisory from Eastern Health on Hospital Appointments

gmcneil Health and Safety

The following advisory from Eastern Health contains information for CUPE members in the Eastern Health district

Eastern Health advises the public that a new temporary phone line is now available for individuals who have questions about the status of their hospital appointments.

Due to service reductions related to COVID-19 emergency planning, patients and clients can call 709-752-4500, or toll-free at 1-833-752-4500, from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., to inquire if their previously scheduled hospital appointment is going ahead or is cancelled; or if it is being rescheduled.

At this time, Eastern Health is focusing on the delivery of urgent and emergent services. Questions about appointments for elective and non-urgent procedures and treatments at any of Eastern Health hospitals and acute care centres should be directed to this new phone line.

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COVID-19 UPDATE: Advisory from Eastern Health on Public Screening and Access to Facilities

gmcneil Health and Safety

The following advisory from Eastern Health contains important information for CUPE members and families in the Eastern Health district

Eastern Health advises the public that facilities within the region will begin to reduce the number of entry points, or entrances, into its facilities in an effort to manage and screen individuals upon entry. Individuals entering health-care facilities can expect to be screened for COVID-19 through a series of questions.

Eastern Health is also decreasing the number of hours that building entrances will be open, and encourages the public to check with relevant facilities before arriving to confirm hours of operation. Signage will be posted at the entrances of affected facilities displaying hours of operation, and employees reporting for work should be prepared to display their employee identification badge at building entrances.

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