New WorkSafeBC data shows a 250% increase in occupational COVID-19 infection claims in the education services sector since early December, intensifying B.C. teachers’ calls for enhanced safety protocols in schools.
B.C. teachers are at a significantly greater risk of occupational COVID-19 infection compared with many other workers in the province, says the BC Teachers’ Federation, second only to the health-care services sector in the total number of occupational COVID-19 infection claims.
“The provincial health officer continues to tell us that rates of COVID-19 transmission in schools is low, but the data is telling a different story,” said Teri Mooring, BCTF president. “Like other frontline workers, teachers are going above and beyond every single day. However, they don’t have the same protections as many other workers.”
Workers in public school districts have the third-highest number of compensation claims, only behind workers in long-term care and acute care settings. The number of claims by public school district workers exceeds those of health care workers in other settings, including emergency health care.
“Our teachers are incredibly concerned, and rightly so. We need the province to step it up and strengthen health and safety measures in our schools, including expanding the current mask mandates. There is a lot more government, health officials, and school districts can do to improve protections for teachers. It’s time for them to act,” said Mooring.
An estimated 82% of teachers’ claims for occupational COVID-19 infection have been accepted by WorkSafeBC, compared to 70% of COVID-19 claims by all workers in B.C. This high percentage of claim acceptance suggests teachers working in a classroom environment experience a significantly greater risk of exposure to COVID-19 compared to other workers, says the BCTF.
The BCTF’s WorkSafeBC Advocacy Office is advising all teachers working in a classroom environment where there is a significant risk of exposure to COVID-19 to work with their local union to file a claim with WorkSafeBC should they be diagnosed with the virus.