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BCCDC Now Recognizes Airborne Transmission of COVID-19

  • Bulletin; Health & Safety; COVID-19
Nurses must continue to have timely and unrestricted access to appropriate PPE and be protected at the highest level

​The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC)’s recent update regarding COVID-19 transmission has affirmed the BCNU’s position from November 2020 that nurses and all health-care workers must have access to the highest level of PPE at all times when working through the pandemic.

The BCCDC has updated its guidelines, now indicating that smaller droplets in enclosed spaces can float in the air for a longer time than larger droplets, which can lead to the spread of COVID-19.

On the BCCDC website’s How It Spreads section, it states “smaller droplets come out of the mouth and nose at the same time as larger droplets. These smaller droplets are light, and they can float in the air for a longer time. Because of this, smaller droplets may collect in enclosed spaces unless they are diluted with clean air from the outdoors or from a ventilation system. If many people are sharing a space without enough clean air, it can lead to COVID-19 infections.”

Unlike the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the BCCDC has not used the word aerosols (microscopic airborne particles) when describing how the virus spreads.

In the absence of certainty, members are reminded that the union supports the use of a precautionary approach in health-care facilities to minimize potential risks of exposure and transmission of COVID-19, including adequate ventilation and access to equipment such as N95 respirators, when required. Your employer must provide you with a safe workplace and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

OH&S Rights and COVID-19

It is also important that members understand their occupational health and safety (OH&S) rights in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as appropriate engineering and administrative controls, and the types of PPE available to minimize the risk of exposure and transmission.  A point of care risk assessment (PCRA) should be conducted before providing patient care to ensure that it is safe to do so. Your PCRA may determine additional PPE or other measures are required to keep you safe.

COVID-19 transmission can also occur in other parts of the workplace. If you have concerns related to non-patient care areas such as break rooms or common areas, we recommend that you bring these forward to your employer immediately. Employers are required to provide a safe workplace for you. If your concerns are not immediately addressed, please contact your steward or regional executive team.

Additional COVID-19 resources for BCNU members are also available on the BCNU website. To reach the dedicated BCNU member safety and support phone line, which is used to respond to nurses who have occupational health and safety and labour relations concerns related to COVID-19, dial 604-433-2268 or toll-free at 1-800-663-9991. The phone line is available to all nurses who require urgent assistance from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Friday.

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