Sex Workers in BC worked together to take action during the phase 2 opening of businesses and amenities. Fears of biased enforcement and delays for sex workers getting back to work prompted us to work with Vancouver Coastal Health, Work Safe BC and other stakeholders to ensure that health enhancement centers could open.
Many sex workers did not qualify for the CERB income replacement during the lock down due to. issues related to unlivable payments under social assistance and disability programs. The fastest solution was to see people get back to work so that they did not loose their housing and can feed themselves and their families.
It was agreed by all parties that sex workers would go back to work regardless of opening phases and that we could work to protect their safety better within the HEC environment than for example in a car. Sex workers could be forced to choose the more dangerous street level industry if we did not work to see HEC’s open.
The following guidelines are the result of that collaboration;
Health Enhancement Center/ Steam Bath Guidelines for developing opening plans
This document provides guidance for preventing transmission of COVID-19 to operators of Health Enhancement Centres and Steam Baths. It is based upon current knowledge and it should be understood that guidance is subject to change as new data becomes available and new developments arise with this new virus; furthermore, unique situations may require some discretion in adjusting these guidelines which are meant to be supportive, not prescriptive.
WHAT is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a respiratory infection caused by a newly identified virus. The infection has symptoms similar to other respiratory illnesses, including the flu and common cold: cough, sneezing, fever, sore throat and difficulty breathing. Other symptoms can include fatigue, muscle aches, diarrhea, headache or lost sense of smell. While most people infected with COVID-19 experience only mild illness, severe illness can occur in some people, especially in those with weaker immune systems, the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions.
HOW is COVID-19 Spread?
COVID-19 is spread through liquid droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus in these droplets can enter through the eyes, nose or mouth of another person if they are in close contact with the person who coughed or sneezed. COVID-19 is not transmitted through particles in the air and is not something that can enter the body through the skin.
WHERE can I get more Information about COVID-19?
The province of British Columbia has created a phone service to provide nonmedical information about COVID-19 which is available from 7:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. at 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319) or via text message at 604-630-0300. More information on COVID-19 can also be found online:
Vancouver Coastal Health http://www.vch.ca/covid-19
BC Centre for Disease Control http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19
Each business will be required to develop an individual opening plan which fits the needs of their particular space. Each plan should consider the six areas of concern below. If you need help with your opening plan please do not hesitate to contact;
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CRITICAL SAFETY COMPONENTS
Health Enhancement Centre work presents some unique challenges in prevention of transmission of COVID-19. There are some actions which are critical in ensuring the lowest chance of transmission;
- Hard screening of both clients and workers – using the BC Centre for Disease Control self assessment tool – https://bc.thrive.health/covid19/en – This tool is available in multiple languages. This is seen as an important measure to protect yourself, your staff and patrons from transmission.
- Minimizing Facial Contact – COVID-19 is a respiratory infection so minimizing close contact face to face with clients or other staff members is key to preventing the spread.
- Physical Distancing in Staff Areas – has been an issue across all industries and as such enhanced cleaning and physical distancing measures are critical in these spaces.
While these critical guidelines are important, the following sections also address the expectations of health officers and inspectors. Some of these guidelines may not apply too you or your business and that is ok. Each business should create their own safety plan which includes the ways you intend to address the critical areas of concern and the following 6 areas of consideration.
Goal: Modify daily operations and the physical environment to minimize the potential for COVID-19 to spread in a Health Enhancement Centre or Steam Bath.
The following guidelines are offered for use when building your opening plan;
- Provide a supply of hand sanitizer at the entrance to the business
- Reduce number of clients and staff to ensure people can physical distance adequately.
- Increased ventilation can work to keep airflow moving and minimize transmission of virus. (ie- opening doors)
- If fans are to be used to increase ventilation, point them towards the floor to prevent unintentional spread of virus on surfaces in the space.
- Consider installing shields (e.g. plexiglass) at reception desk to protect staff when interacting with clients and collecting payments.
- Washrooms and showers must have liquid soap, paper towels and warm running water at all times.
- Consider developing specialized checklists staff can use to evaluate your COVID19 measures and help workers and patrons understand the new policies.
- All staff should wash hands after handling money
- Staff rooms should allow enough space for physical distancing. Staff rooms have been shown as a high risk area for community spread so close attention should be paid to ensuring these areas are disinfected often and that staff can physically distance.
- Use of Personal Protective Equipment (masks, face shield, gloves) during sessions with clients is recommended. Face shields should be disinfected between appointments.
- Consider enhanced screening of clients including questions about whether they work in health care, may come into contact with people in a high risk category, have been isolating or have been experiencing any symptoms.
- Consider logging contact information for clients in case of a staff member or other client testing positive for COVID-19. No full names are needed. A simple time and date of visit with e-mail or phone number and a name – any name ie- john or jack – will allow health officers to contact anyone who may have been exposed to potential transmission.
- This information would only need to be kept for 2 weeks.
- No information of a personal or identifiable nature should kept or stored.
- Health enhancement centre workers should change into their “work” clothes upon arrival at work and place their “civilian” clothes in a plastic bag to prevent transmission of any trace of virus picked up during transit to work.
- Work clothes should be laundered daily and transported to work in a plastic bag to prevent contamination during transit.
- All clients should be required to shower upon entering and before the appointment begins.
- All service providers should shower after each client.
- Consider providing only “happy ending massage” and not full service at this time.
- Because the virus is known to be transmitted via saliva – kissing or unprotected oral are not recommended.
- All facial close contact should be minimized as much as possible.
- Because it has been shown that the virus may be transmitted via semen, it is recommended that a condom be used for all intimate contact.
Goal: To increase the space between people (clients, staff and managers) to eliminate potential transmission of the virus.
- Minimize facial contact – COVID-19 is a respiratory infection and as such people should minimize close facial contact as much as possible.
- Limiting number of staff on shift to allow physical distancing during time between appointments is recommended.
- Staff rooms have been shown to be a high risk for transmission of the virus so employ enhanced cleaning techniques to ensure these areas are safe for staff and ensure enough space for staff to employ physical distancing.
- Because of physical distancing guidelines, multi-person interactions are not recommended at this time.
- Book appointments with enough time in between to prevent more than one client in the reception area at once.
Goal: use signs in employee areas and reception to communicate important information about COVID-19.
- Place signs at entrances telling anyone entering not to enter if they are feeling ill.
- Post physical distancing signs in common areas.
- Post hand washing signs in washrooms and changing rooms.
- Ensure signs contain clear language that is easy to understand.
- When possible, use signs that include diagrams and pictures.
- The following are links to signs you can simply print and post in your business;
Goal: Increase cleaning and disinfection of common touch points to prevent COVID-19 from spreading through contaminated surfaces.
- Enhanced cleaning procedures – cleaning session rooms between clients including massage tables and all surfaces the client came into contact with, cleaning bathroom areas periodically throughout the shift and cleaning all surfaces frequently touched using a bleach solution or equivalent disinfectant which is strong enough to remove traces of the virus.
- Increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas (door handles, faucets, bathrooms, handrails, chairs and tables).
- Increase frequency of cleaning and disinfection of staff common areas as these areas are shown to be a high risk across all industries.’
- Create a checklist of all high-touch surfaces that must be cleaned, determine the frequency of cleaning and disinfection based on your facility’s needs.
- Record when cleaning and disinfection has occurred.
- Consider having separate cleaning supplies for different areas of the business.
- Provide multiple plastic lined waste containers to dispose of used tissues, wipes, gloves, and other cleaning materials.
- When cleaning bathrooms and changing rooms, if possible, avoid production of aerosols (e.g. spraying with hose or power-washer). Instead, use a mop or brush.
- Lockers and cubbies used by employees to store personal belongings should be cleaned and disinfected between uses (consider providing wipes for this purpose).
- Towels provided for clients use should be laundered on the hottest possible setting.
The following are links to information about disinfectants and their use;
Employee Sickness and return to work policies
Goal: To maintain healthy workers and protecting patrons by ensuring that sick employees remain home for at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms and do not return to work until safe to do so.
- Using the BC Centre for Disease Control Self Assessment Tool to screen staff often.
- Ensure all staff members understand that if they are sick, they should stay home!
- Consider creating a policy which reassures staff that they should stay home when they are sick or showing Covid-19 symptoms and they will not loose their job.
- Develop an employee illness plan that is communicated to all staff.
- Have employees declare they are symptom-free when signing in for the day. If employees have any symptoms, even mild symptoms they should go home.
- Consider using a “ no contact” thermometer to test staff before entrance to the business. Any reading of 100F or over should be considered a risk.
- No health information of a personal nature should be kept or stored for any purpose.
- If while at work, an employee starts experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness consistent with COVID-19, even if symptoms are mild, ask the employee to don a mask and to leave work immediately, go straight home, and have them contact their family physician/primary care provider or 8-1-1 for further guidance.
- Ensure that objects and surfaces touched by sick employees are disinfected before being used by others.
- Tell your employees that if they are sick with any symptoms of respiratory illness consistent with cold, influenza or COVID-19, even if symptoms are mild, they must not work, remain at home, and contact Health Link BC at 8-1-1.
- Anyone with symptoms can now be assessed and receive a COVID-19 test.
- Testing is not recommended for people who do not have symptoms.
- If an employee has a COVID-19 diagnosis, the local public health department will identify any co-workers who may have been exposed to the sick employee.
- The employer and employees should be reassured that if they haven’t been contacted by public health then there is no issue or concern that was identified by public health.
Training for managers and employees
Goal: Provide training to all employees so they understand how to protect themselves and patrons from COVID-19.
- Train all employees about the virus so they know how to minimize its spread.
- Train all employees about the BC Centre for Disease Control Self Assessment Tool and how to use it.
- Employees must wash their hands at the start of their shift, between each client, before eating or drinking, after touching shared items, after using the washroom, and before leaving work.
- Employees should follow cough and sneeze etiquette.
- Employees should avoid touching their face without first cleaning their hands.
- There should be no sharing of cigarettes or vaping equipment.
- Staff training sessions should be done in small groups with adequate physical distancing, or online.
- Consider providing electronic COVID-19 resources to all employees.
- Communicate information in multiple languages.
- Make sure any person required to carry out enhanced cleaning has received the appropriate training, including how to use disinfectants.
Thank you for being a Health Enhancement Centre Operator!
We appreciate the jobs you provide and hope to help you get back in business soon!
If you have any questions or need help with creating an
for your business, please do not hesitate to contact us!