Updated: Jan 9, 2022
I am a teacher, and it is Monday morning so what do I do?
Teachers should go to school, remain outside the building, and ask to speak to an administrator. They should tell the administrator they believe the building and their classroom to be an unsafe workplace and would like a WorkSafeBC investigation. You have several concerns. There is a deadly virus throughout the building. Covid is classified as a category 3 hazard. You have not been afforded the opportunity to have my booster shot so you are at greater risk. There are unvaccinated people in the building including employees. You have not been provided with recommended protective gear (namely an N95 mask) for the environment. Finally, you are concerned about the ventilation in the classroom because excessive CO2 levels lead to higher rates of covid infections in a room. You should also point out that you are fully prepared to work from home as has been recommended by the PHO for businesses.
The administrator may say that they are following all the PHO guidelines and so it is safe. Your answer is that you are entitled to an inspection by WorkSafeBC, and you believe that the arrival of students has changed the conditions. Restate that: today you believe it to be unsafe for you to work within the building so you will await the determination of the inspector.
The administrator may say that we have had this request before Christmas, and we were deemed to be safe, so you have no grounds. Your response is that several things have changed in the intervening time. First, the Omicron virus is much more virulent than any other covid virus and you believe it is much more present in the school. The only way to determine this is to rapid test those in the building and you believe a thorough investigation will provide rapid tests to the school to undertake this. Second, last week the PHO stated publicly that “everyone in a school should be vaccinated”. This is the first time that the PHO has been so definitive. Thirdly, numerous studies and experts have supported the use of N95 masks over the masks being issued in the school. Finally, a public employer (West Vancouver Municipality) has demonstrated that public employees who are not vaccinated can be placed on unpaid leave to protect the other employees. Your expectation is that the School Board will take similar action to keep you safe.
Remember, you cannot be disciplined for refusing to enter a workplace that you deem unsafe. You are simply following a legally defined process to protect yourself and your students. If there was ever a time to stand up for yourself and your students, this is it. Schools are not safe; you are not safe, and your profession is not safe. You deserve better and you will never have more public support than you have now.
It is time to take a stand or forever hold your peace. I wish you luck with what I know is a difficult but no risk decision. I also thank you for your dedication and hope you and your family will be safe and healthy.
Doug Player January 9, 2022