Tasting Rooms Can Get Ready Now–Don’t Wait

Sectors of the economy all over the province are going to be turning in plans and protocols for the government to review in the next few weeks to allow for re-opening.  Tasting rooms (be they for wineries, cideries, distilleries and breweries) will all have to show they are ready with new protocols before they will be allowed to open.  The BCWI is holding an initial committee later this week to start these discussion and other sectors have already gone through this process (like the restaurant association).

If you are a BC beverage manufacturer that hosts the public in tasting room style operations you will have to follow what WorksafeBC has set down (see this document)  I have rewritten them for you in case for some reason you find it easier to ready Sandra Speak rather than government speak.

DO NOT WAIT to review these because they will end up in any plan for re-opening.  No one is going to do this for you. Reading them is not good enough. WorksafeBC and the health authorities will require you to WRITE down your plans for each of the sections below. I would suggest the following to get started:

  • Send these 6 points out (below) to employees ahead of a zoom or conference call to let them read them over
  • Get employees and management on a zoom or conference  call and start working through these sections.  There will no doubt be more detailed recommendations for protocols for tastings rooms as to what to do with walk in groups, group size, outdoor implications of moving your tasting room outside etc. but what is below will be expected to be worked through for each and every tasting room so don’t wait to start putting these plans in writing.
  • Start writing down the things you know you will need to address. This can be done even with out a walk through of the premises. I cannot stress enough–WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN.
  • Start ordering supplies you will need including signs, sanitizers, cleaning supplies etc. A great resource for this will be here on the BC Food and Beverage site.
  • Listen to employee’s concerns individually about how they feel about coming back to work. Be prepared with offering resources and mostly, scheduling extra time with you, to discuss issues that have arisen since they have been laid off, removed from their normal duties and self-isolating.
  • Once you get ready to open, practice, practice, practice.  Use that new online appointment booking platform. Practice how you will greet, seat, pour, educate, get people to pay, take their wine to their cars, opening and closing procedures and on and on.  Consistency is your friend.
  • You should not open up unless your employees feel they are ready and protocols have been practiced and questions answered. If you don’t open up when you neighbor does don’t sweat it.  Remember this overarching rule of WorksafeBC: WORKERS HAVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE WORK IF THEY BELIEVE IT PRESENTS AN UNDUE HAZARD.  What is most important is a consistent approach from each winery. Customers will be looking for consistency and rigour more than anything else.

So, according to WorksafeBC, your business will need to do the following things:

  1. ASSESS RISK at your workplace
    1. Who needs to be involved? Frontline workers, supervisors, H&S committees
    2. How is COVID spread- droplets through coughs/sneezes or touch contaminated surface then touching face therefore how to consider the following for each tasting room:
      1. Where do people congregate? Break rooms, meeting rooms etc.
      2. What job tasks cause workers to come in close proximity
      3. What materials are exchanged like money, credits cards, paperwork
      4. What equipment or tools do people come in contact with
      5. What surfaces are touched including doors, light switches, tools
  1. Implement measures to REDUCE RISK
    1. Cleanings and hygiene
      1. Adequate hand-washing facilities; develop policies around when wash hands like before work, before and after breaks, after handling cash or other materials, before and after using common equipment
      2. Implement cleaning protocol for common surfaces including washrooms, tables, doors
      3. Remove unnecessary supplies like coffee makers, shared utensils and plates
    2. Maintain physical distance
      1. Consider reducing overall number of workers
      2. Ensure the right number of people are in each area to prevent coming in too close—space workers out
      3. 2 meters between all people, employees and public, where possible
    3. Where physical distance cannot be maintained
      1. Consider partitions
      2. Consider use of masks, face shields, gloves (although these have limitations)
  1. Develop (and write down) policies around who can be at your tasting room 
    1. Self-isolation
      1. Symptomatic people must self- isolate at home for minimum of 10 days; symptoms include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, sore throat and fatigue
      2. Anyone told to isolate by provincial health officer
      3. Anyone who has arrived from outside Canada for 14 days
    2. Limit visitors
    3. Make a plan if workers start feeling ill at work including who they should notify and how they will get from the workplace to their home
    4. If workers are alone to reduce transmission put in place procedures to ensure their safety—consider check ins by a person(s) NOT alone
    5. Develop work at home procedures
  1. Develop (and write down) Communication plans and training
    1. Train every person who is employed by you about staying home when they develop sickness symptoms
    2. Post signage including occupancy limits and effective hygiene practices. Post at main entrances including who is restricted from entering such as people with symptoms
    3. Ensure proper supervision of employees so they know what to do
  1. Monitor workplace as needed
    1. Address new areas of concern as they arise and involve workers in this
    2. Ensure workers feel free to raise safety concerns through a worker representative (9-20 employees), through a joint H&S committee (more than 20 employees) or some other way (under 9 employees)
    3. (Remember to write down any changes you have made to modify your plans–it shows you are actively monitoring the situation and are doing due diligence)
  1. Assess risks from resuming operations if you have not been operating normally
    1. If you’ve seen staff turnover, are workers ready to adapt to new job roles, use new equipment? Consider more training and orientation
    2. Do workers that have been away need training to refresh skills?
    3. Have you changed protocols that need retraining?
    4. Are there any start up risks like equipment that hasn’t been running for a length of time, restarting machinery etc


  1. Workers have the right to refuse work if they believe it presents and undue hazard. If employer can’t resolve the issue the employer must call WorksafeBC.
  2. Workers and employers with questions should call 1-888-621-SAFE to speak to WorksafeBC’s Prevention Information Line
  3. There are resources for protecting mental health
    1. COVID-19 Psychological First Aid Service: Information and Signup (British Columbia Psychological Association) – Free virtual counseling provided by registered psychologists.
    2. COVID-19: Staying Well In Uncertain Times (Canadian Mental Health Association – B.C.) – Tips and information on how to reduce and manage anxiety in the workplace due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
    3. Managing COVID-19 Stress, Anxiety and Depression (Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions) – Tips and resources on things we can do as individuals and collectively to deal with stress and support one another during these challenging times.
    4. Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak (World Health Organization) – These mental health considerations were developed by the WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Use as messages targeting different groups to support for mental and psychosocial well-being during COVID-19 outbreak.
    5. Mental Health and COVID-10 (Conference Board of Canada) – Videos on different aspects of mental health, including coping with anxiety, job loss, and dealing with isolation.
    6. Taking Care of Your Mental Health (COVID-19) (Public Health Agency of Canada) – Tips and resources for taking care of your mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak.


About Sandra Oldfield

You can find out a bit more about me through the "About Me" page at the top of my blog.
This entry was posted in BC Wine Industry, Health and Safety and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Tasting Rooms Can Get Ready Now–Don’t Wait

  1. C. Beaton says:

    Good, clear Sandra speak! I like that you have included links re mental health. Now, your next one could be for consumers/visitors, please! Hope you are being appropriately spoiled and having a Happy Mothers’ Day! Carole


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