Health and Safety Committee

Minutes of the National Health and Safety Policy Committee (NHSPC) Meeting

June 23, 2020

DATE:                   June 23, 2020                             TIME: 1:00 p.m.

LOCATION:       Conference call

ATTENDEES:

Employer Representatives

Employee Representatives

Members

Dan Couture
Nandini  Srikantiah (for Hugo Pagé)
Chris Docherty (for Dana-Lynne Hills)
Maggie Trudel-Maggiore
Heather Dipenta

Doug Gaetz (UTE)
(Employee Co-Chair)
Tracy Marcotte (UTE)
Allaudin Alibhai (AFS)
Brian Oldford (UTE)
Alnashir Ravjiani (AFS)

Secretary David Walsh  
Observers

Andrea McKay
Chantal Monette

Mathieu Juneau
Eric Langlais

This meeting was chaired by the Employer Co-Chair, Mr. Dan Couture.

EMPLOYER CO-CHAIR REMARKS

The Employer Co-Chair opened by welcoming members and thanked the policy committee members, observers, guests and all others who have contributed on occupational health and safety (OHS) matters and files since the pandemic began in March 2020. He noted that health and safety remains the number one priority for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Members were informed that the National Worksite Protocol During the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Building Worksite Plan, and the CRA National Worksite Guiding Principles documents were shared with the Branch/Regional Assistant Commissioners and NHSPC members. These documents will be posted on the new COVID-19 - The way forward InfoZone page on June 24, 2020. Employee representatives were thanked for their participation and feedback throughout this initiative. Members were reminded that the CRA will transition from a critical services mode to a business resumption mode effective June 26, 2020. Further information will be provided shortly to employees on the National Business Resumption Plan. To date, 62 buildings continue to operate at reduced capacity.

Finally, members were provided with a summary of the communications that were posted on the InfoZone COVID-19 page since the last ad-hoc NHSPC meeting held on May 26, 2020. This included CRA-specific questions and answers, CRA COVID-19 measures and an update on the CRA’s Business Continuity Plan.

EMPLOYEE CO-CHAIR REMARKS

The Employee Co-Chair thanked NHSPC members and all employees involved since the pandemic began in March 2020. He noted that the valuable contributions and work done by everyone is appreciated. Members were informed that the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) is developing a PowerPoint presentation on the National Worksite Protocol. The goal is to provide the local OHS committees and local presidents with information on their roles and responsibilities related to the National Worksites Protocol. Mathieu Juneau was thanked for developing this document.    

Update from the national OHS SECTION – COVID-19

Representatives from the Human Resources Branch (HRB) provided members with an update on OHS initiatives related to COVID-19. Employee representatives were thanked for their regular discussions with the Assistant Director of OHS on various OHS topics since the pandemic started. This collaborative work contributed to the development of very timely guidance on numerous topics.

Members were informed that an information document was developed to provide guidance to employees on how to protect themselves from the heat while working at home. This document will be posted shortly on InfoZone. An emergency management questions and answers document was also developed to provide guidance on emergency evacuations. This document was shared with local security officials.

Members were informed that the Multiple Environment Job Hazard Analysis (MEJHA) Working Group developed a risk assessment for physical distancing using a new template for Task Hazard Analysis specific to COVID-19. The results of the risk assessments will be shared with senior management and will be used to recommend situations where physical distancing may be problematic and non-medical masks may be necessary. Also, a cleaning guide specific to tools, equipment and machines is underway and will be reviewed by the Working Group. In addition, a new risk assessment tool to be used by field employees, specifically for the retrieval of documents and equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic, was developed and shared with the Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) Working Group and cascaded down to the management teams. A new safe work procedure was also developed for field employees working outside of federal government facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic and is currently under consultation with the JHA Working Group.  

The Health and Safety Committee Terms of Reference Guide was reviewed and updated based on lessons learned during the pandemic. A guidance document was also created to help health and safety committees and health and safety representatives develop inspection criteria related to COVID-19 controls in their workplaces.

Also, in addition to the guidance document “Working from home – Ergonomics Principles”, the National OHS Section is currently looking at various possibilities with the Contractor, Workplace Health and Cost Solutions, for offering ergonomics assessments given the current pandemic. Members were informed that a review of the role of the ergonomic coaches during the pandemic is also underway. The CRA’s contract for office chairs was amended to allow for chairs to be purchased and shipped directly to employees’ homes during the pandemic. The Early Intervention and Return to Work coordinators will be assisting employees and managers from an accommodation perspective when a pre-existing accommodation situation or prior ergonomic assessment had been completed. Guidance was provided to managers regarding this process.

Members received an update on Bill C-65. It was announced in the Labour Program’s Forward Regulatory Plan: 2020 to 2022 that the Publication of the Regulations in Part II of the Canada Gazette is expected in the summer of 2020, with coming into force anticipated for the winter of 2021. It was noted in the document that “given current circumstances related to COVID-19, there is uncertainty regarding publication and coming into force dates. The 2020 to 2022 Forward Regulatory Plan will be re-issued when operations return to normal”.

Members were reminded that the National OHS Section is still engaged with the OHS community of practice and is in line with Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat, Public Services and Procurement Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada and the Public Service with its approach during the pandemic.

Lastly, members were informed that a CRA working group was created, lead by the Integrity and Well-being and the Workforce Learning and Leadership Development Divisions, to help managers and employees during the transition period. This working group will develop a plan that will be shared with the Well-being National Advisory Committee for input and feedback.

OPEN QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS SESSION

The following questions were addressed:

Is the 30% occupancy level still a target and will the unions participate in the return to the worksite planning exercise?

The 30% occupancy level is not a target to achieve for the CRA but rather a guideline based on business imperatives and required control measures. The goal is to ensure the appropriate measures are in place to protect the health and safety of all employees who must be physically present at a building site. The exact occupancy rate will vary as each site will have specific constraints and restrictions that need to be considered.

According to the National Worksite Protocol During the COVID-19 Pandemic document, management and the unions will be collaborating throughout the return to the worksite planning and implementation processes to ensure all employee aspects are considered especially in regards to the general working conditions.

What is the criteria to determine if non-medical masks should be or not be purchased?

The CRA indicated that the JHA Working Group is currently working on a risk assessment analysis which includes the possible need for non-medical masks. As a result, recommendations will be provided to senior management to help them determine if non-medical masks may be necessary when physical distancing may be problematic. The CRA continues to align with the federal government and the public health authority recommendations regarding non-medical masks. Members will be kept informed of further developments on this topic.

What is the composition of the CRA Well-being Working Group?

A well-being advisory committee, including employee representatives, had been created before the COVID-19 pandemic. With the current situation, a new CRA working group was created which includes human resources expertise such as the Workforce Learning and Leadership Development Division, the Informal Conflict Resolution and the National OHS Sections. The Working Group is looking at how to support managers and employees with the questions they may have and to develop tools to support those conversations.

Is there a possibility for the CRA to review the plan for employees who cannot work from home for various reasons? If not, what is the plan to tackle this issue?

The CRA is aware that employees may be experiencing different kinds of challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. As employee health and safety is the primary concern, the CRA encourages managers to reach out to their employees and for employees to discuss any concerns with their manager. As a reminder, the employee assistance program is available for employees and also for their families, if necessary.

Could some offices be opened to accommodate employees with no air conditioning at home?

The CRA confirmed that most offices will remain vacated until the fall except for the offices that are required to be open for business purposes. The CRA needs to ensure that the worksites follow public health authority recommendations and minimize the risk to employees before opening a building.  For example, enhanced cleaning protocols and maintenance services will all need to be in place prior to accommodating any employees.

Does the CRA anticipate delays for the delivery of chairs to employees working from home?

To date, approximately 1500 chairs have been delivered to employees working from home. No delays are anticipated at this time from the provider with respect to the delivery of chairs.

Does the CRA plan to provide face masks during an evacuation?

At this time, the CRA has not recommend wearing a face mask during an evacuation as this may introduce other hazards. For example, issues when exiting down the stairs or with inhibiting the possibility of communicating effectively during the evacuation.

Can the CRA provide an update on recent evacuations that occurred in some buildings?

The National OHS Section will follow-up with the regions and will provide an update to members.  

When will the report on threats and assaults against CRA employees be re-issued?

The employer representative from Finance and Administration Branch will follow-up to determine what was the commitment on this. It will also be confirmed if the reports can be shared again starting in September 2020.

When should members expect the resumption of the OHS written updates and documents?

The National OHS Section indicated that certain OHS written updates and documents will resume again for the next NHPSC meeting. A review will be completed to determine which files will resume in September due to the priority of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Employer Co-Chair closed the questions and answers session and moved to the round table session.

ROUND TABLE

Brian Olford thanked members for sharing information on other government departments work related to COVID-19 and is impressed with what has been done so far at the CRA versus other government departments.

Allaudin Alibhai shared his appreciation on the open and regular communications that are taking place with the Assistant Director of OHS.

Alnashir Ravjiani recognized the work that has been done by the JHA Working Group and is looking forward receiving written updates again at the next NHSPC meeting.

Mathieu Juneau requested to leave open the number of open buildings in the action item report since members would like to continue receiving updates on a regular basis. The CRA agreed.

Maggie Trudel-Maggiore commented about the good relationship between the National OHS Section and employee representatives and how it is great that all members have the health and safety of employees at heart.

Nandini Srikantiah shared that the feedback provided by the employee representatives on the National Worksite Protocols and the Building Worksite Plans is much appreciated as it makes for a more comprehensive document.

David Walsh thanked everyone for their cooperation and flexibility often with short timelines and thanked the National OHS team for their hard work being done throughout the pandemic.   

CLOSING REMARKS

Doug Gaetz expressed his appreciation to all members for working together and for providing information quickly to employees. He also noted that the weekly calls with the Assistant Director of OHS made a major difference in all the work being done and that the CRA is ahead of other government departments. The employee representatives would like to aim for a return to normal NHSPC meetings as of September 2020.

Dan Couture thanked members and the National OHS team and reiterated the importance of continuing to work together during the upcoming months. The Information Technology Branch (ITB) was also thanked for ensuring that employees have the appropriate equipment while working from home. The health and safety of employees will remain a priority as the CRA transitions to a business resumption mode. All members are welcome to raise any issues before the next NHSPC meeting.

Dan Couture
Employer Co-Chair
National Health and Safety
Policy Committee

September 23, 2020

Doug Gaetz
Employee Co-Chair
National Health and Safety
Policy Committee

September 24, 2020

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