Opinion: More Burnaby restaurants need to get deets on diners

Chris Campbell

A surprising thing happened to me the other night.

A server at a Burnaby restaurant asked me for my name and phone number. This was done in case of a COVID-19 diagnosis and so Fraser Health could track and get in contact with diners.

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I was surprised because it’s the first time since I started dining out again on June 1 that a restaurant had asked me (a couple already had my details when I made a reservation).

All the others had not specifically asked, despite what health officials said they want when restaurants were allowed to reopen.

The province has urged restaurants to "retain contact information for one member of every party of patrons for 30 days in the event that there is a need for contact tracing on the part of the medical health officer." 

In my experience, this is not happening. But it should. I know it’s a pain and some customers might freak out about it (they shouldn’t) but it’s an important part of dealing with COVID-19, especially during this reopening.

WorkSafeBC’s guidelines for the reopening cover sectors ranging from restaurants to offices, including guidance on how many people should be allowed in a business as well as controlling entry and exit points.

Al Johnson, the agency’s head of prevention services, said the guidelines were a “collaborative exercise” that included employers, retail and safety associations, restaurants, agriculture groups and government ministries.

In every industry, the guidelines emphasize having as little contact with customers as possible and ensuring social distance is maintained.

WorkSafeBC advises businesses to follow the protocol on gatherings, limiting events, such as museum tours, and working to establish safe occupancy limits.

It said specific guidelines for sports and recreation as well as child care will be released later.

But before reopening, the safety agency said businesses need to ensure they have a COVID-19 safety plan to protect workers and it must be displayed.

Johnson said every employer and business is different but the main safety issues revolve around the general principles of maintaining distance, and not just between workers but with members of the public as well. The principles also include good sanitation and hygiene, cleaning, and rethinking business practices.

“Undoubtedly, the devil is in the details when it comes to developing a plan, a safety plan ... so there will be questions, there will be people who need more information and we’re prepared,” Johnson said in an interview.

Employers should seek input from workers to ensure their concerns are addressed, he added.

About 300 prevention officers will oversee enforcement of the guidelines through unannounced inspections and taking complaints, he said.

“We want employers to succeed here so we are wanting to do everything with them and make sure employers have everything in place,” Johnson said.

If employers don’t have a health and safety plan or don’t intend to create one then WorkSafeBC will take action, he said.

“We will write orders and take them to sanction should we need to like any other health and safety violation in the workplace,” he said.

Penalties could include a ticket, an order, monetary sanction or even shutting down a business until a violation is corrected.

“We’re hoping it doesn’t come to that,” he said.

Johnson said employees have a right to refuse to go to work if they feel unsafe and should follow information on the WorkSafeBC website to file a complaint.

The agency says it will continue developing industry-specific guidelines as more businesses across B.C. begin reopening over the coming months.

  • With files from the Canadian Press

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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