Important message to Case Aide Members re: Safety Protocols and PPE
As we continue to work through this pandemic, and the risk of infection continues to be present, we have been advocating for best practices for our Case Aide members who work with children and adults in a variety of different environments and situations.
We had some specific questions and concerns about PPE and safety protocols and sent these to the Public Service Commission for review. We are sending their response to you as well as to our staff who service Civil Service locals, so you are aware.
These are the questions we asked:
- Of a number of practices that we were concerned about Are Case Aides going to be provided with touchless thermometers to make sure no one has a fever prior to access? With all their field work – if anyone needs them, they need them.
- How do they actually enforce appropriate PPE usage for the adults in the visit, are Case Aides being explicitly empowered to immediately end a visit if the adult is not in compliance?
- Hand washing is mentioned as required before and after visits, how is that to take place in the field? Are the staff being provided with the sufficient amount of hand sanitizer?
- Departmental policies say that “Staff traveling to meet clients should maintain a small supply including their own personal mask as well as a procedure mask / gloves and sanitization supplies as appropriate” Later in the document some mention is made of those disposable masks and gloves being discarded after single use, and that PPEs may be available from the Employer if the employer does not bring their own. However these items are certainly being required for work so we are expecting that all these items will be provided or paid for by the Employer. Can you please confirm that this is the case?
- We strongly suggest that DCS staff who request face visors receive them…they provide eye, nose and mouth protection. The simple mask would seem to be the minimum. The face visor provides an enhanced level of protection for the many unexpected situations that can arise dealing with children and the community at large.
- Case Aides also asked for a limit of one child only in the car sitting diagonal from the Case Aide. However the Case Aides are being told that two children from the same family will be driven together – this prevents the Case Aides from maintaining appropriate safe distance. We ask for your review of that.
- We also request that all office and washroom facilities be sanitized properly and more regularly than normal; not on the same schedule as under normal circumstances.
Here are the answers provided by the Employer:
- Case Aides will not be provided with thermometers. Temperature is only one of many symptoms and not a reliable source from which to draw a conclusion. The Department does have a list of questions based on Public Health guidelines and allows the clients the dignity to declare without violating their privacy and further marginalizing them. In addition, there is an expectation of foster parents and other caregivers to ensure that children and youth are not exhibiting symptoms prior to and after any transport.
- In terms of appropriate PPE usage for the adults in a visit, adults will be advised prior to the visit by the Social Worker that they must wear a mask. Case Aides will work with the client to ensure they are wearing a mask, and have a conversation with them if there is non-compliance. If there is continued refusal to wear a mask, the Case Aide does have the ability to end the visit.
- Hand washing can take place at offices, restaurants, or other facilities that are open. Case Aides have been provided with a kit that includes sufficient hand sanitizer, wipes and cleaning solutions.
- The Department will be providing the necessary supplies for employees. In addition to the employer supplied PPE, should a staff member prefer to wear their personal cloth mask they can at any time. If there are circumstances where they cannot maintain 6ft of distancing, and therefore must mask, they are provided with a procedural mask.
- There have been workplace hazard assessments in each office and a working group looking specifically at procedures around transportation. Recommendations from these include:
- where more than one child or parent is being transported, masking would be required as 6ft cannot be maintained
- if more than one child or parent are to be transported it is only if they are from the same household (ie. if two siblings are with the same foster parent they can be transported together, if siblings are with different foster parents they would be transported separately)
- anyone being transported over the age of 2 years will be given a mask to wear
- where possible the car seat can be turned to face the back of the car (away from the driver)
- increasing ventilation in the car is recommended
- The hazard assessments did not specifically recommend the use of face shields/visors. However, the employer has procured some visors and some safety goggles (protective eye wear) and these can be made available. As well, the Department is looking into further procurement options more should the need be identified. Wearing a face visor while driving has its own safety issues such that tests would be needed to ensure hazards are not introduced for employees using a shield.
- Since the start of the pandemic, increased cleaning has been occurring in all offices. This includes washrooms and high touch areas such as door handles and elevators. As well, there are more cleaning supplies that have been made available to staff for their personal cubicle spaces.
Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. If you do, you can ask to be connected with your Employee Relations Officer (see the list below) or ask to speak to our OHS Officer, Paul Cormier, through our toll-free number at 1-877-556-7438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Civil Service Employee Relations Officers and the regions they serve are:
Jim Gosse, Local 1 – Cape Breton Region
Dustin Rioux, Local 2, 14 – Pictou County, Antigonish and Guysborough Counties
Elizabeth Kanyikwa, Local 3, 17 – Colchester and Cumberland Counties
John Cook, Local 4, 5, 16 – Annapolis, Kings and Hants Counties, Lunenburg, Shelburne and Queens Counties, Yarmouth and Digby Counties.
David Leddicote: Local 6 – Halifax Metro Region
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