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Retail stores

Retail stores can remain open with effective COVID-19 workplace safety practices.
The advice below is based on current recommendations and may change. Please check back often for recent updates from the Office of the Provincial Health Officer, Ministry of Health and BC Centre for Disease Control:

Updated: January 11, 2021

WorkSafe BC provides guidance for retail services in shops, malls, department stores and other locations.

Summary of latest orders 

New PHO Order: Gathering and Events (January 8, 2021)

Retail business requirements are described in section L of the order and include:

  • Follow physical distancing requirements as described below on this page that limit capacity (five square metres of space for patrons and staff); document this number in the COVID-19 safety plan and ensure these numbers are not exceeded,
  • Persons that cannot be safely accommodated, if advised by the owner or staff, must not enter and should leave if requested,
  • Where practical provide signs and barriers to allow two metre distance between customers and to avoid congregation of patrons,
  •  Provide hand sanitation. 

Workplace Safety (December 16, 2020)

  • Employers must review their COVID-19 safety plan is consistent with WorkSafe BC guidelines,
  • Daily health checks of employees must be performed, employees must not work if they did not pass or properly perform the daily health check,
  • Employers must encourage workers to work from home if that is possible, and provide supports for this, 
  • Employers must prevent employees from congregating at the workplace.
Province-wide restrictions announced November 19, 2020
  • Both customers and staff are required to wear a non-medical mask in all indoor public spaces, including any retail settings such as shopping malls, grocery stores and retail stores. See below for more details and the full Ministerial Order, issued on November 24, 2020.
  • All events are suspended. Consult the PHO Order on Gatherings and Events to see what is considered an event. Buildings large enough to meet physical distancing requirements between people, such as grocery stores or malls, may allow more than 50 people in at one time as long as it is not for an event or gathering. 

Mandatory masks

Masking is now a requirement in all public indoor settings and workplaces. 

  • Workers and customers are required to wear a non-medical, cloth mask that covers the nose and mouth in all indoor public spaces, including any retail settings. It is required at all times except while eating or drinking or seated at a table designated for this purpose. 
  • Businesses should communicate the mask policy to employees and customers and consider posting signage at entrances to advice customers of the new provincial masking requirements.
  • A customer can be refused entry if they do not wear a mask. There are exceptions for:
    • children under 12 years of age;
    • people with a physical or cognitive disability or who cannot put on or remove a mask on their own;
    • people who are eating or drinking in a designated area at an indoor food premises; 
    • people who are receiving a personal service (if mask removal is required);
    • people who need to remove their masks to communicate due to a hearing impairment. 
  • More information about use of masks can be found on the BCCDC and WorkSafe sites.
  • The full Ministerial Order, issued on November 24, 2020
  • A review of the efficacy of masks can be found here (from the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health).

What to do when customers refuse to wear masks


When customers refuse to wear masks in your store it puts workers and other customers at risk.
  • Private businesses have a right to refuse entry to customers not wearing a mask. Ask these customers to shop online or to choose curbside pick-up options.
  • Provide masks at the entrance for those customers who have forgotten their mask.
  • Employers have a duty to accommodate customers and workers who may not be able to wear masks for disability or other medical reasons.  If a worker or customer shares these as reasons why they cannot wear a mask you should accommodate per the information provided by the BC Human Rights Tribunal
  • Staff and operators are not expected to put themselves at risk if a visitor becomes belligerent or abusive. Operators and employees are recommended to contact enforcement officers (e.g., mall security or the police) to remove the visitor as outlined in the Ministerial Order.

Physical distancing 


  • Calculate the number of people inside publicly accessible areas of your store to allow for five squared metres of space per person (customers and staff). Divide the total open space in your store (minus display shelves, counters and fixtures) by 5 to get the number. Should there be less than 5 metres of space for customers in the premises, limit entry to one customer at a time.
  • Allow for two metres of physical distance between customers and staff. For smaller stores, you may need to limit capacity. The number of people allowed inside the store should be posted and part of your COVID-19 Safety Plan.
  • Monitor the number of people inside the store and ensure that numbers do not exceed the allowable number for the space inside your store.
  • Use physical barriers such as plexiglass between workers and customers. Consult Designing Effective Barriers.
  • Where practical, take measures that customers maintain two metre distance using signs or distance indicators to
    • guide customers waiting in line, or waiting for any other purpose,
    • clearly mark entrances and exits, 
    • guide customers moving in one direction (e.g., with one-way signage or arrows on the floor),
    • advising customers to move in one direction, keep moving, and to avoid congregation and congestion at the end of aisles 

Additional measures for malls, shops and retail stores

Show your customers, clients, members, and employees what you are doing to support the efforts to slow the transmission of this virus by communicating online and at your place of business.

Health screening
  • Implement worker and customer health screening. Anyone who is ill should go home and not enter the mall or store.
  • Provide messaging to customers to not shop and stay home if sick (cold, flu, COVID-19 symptoms).
  • Support your employees to stay home if they are sick.
Space and capacity
  • Increase throughput of customers and reduce line-ups by opening and maintaining a higher number of check-outs once physical plexiglass barriers are installed between checkouts.
  • Increase or continue encouragement of online shopping, deliveries, and/or pick-ups to reduce volume of visits.
  • Consider the layout of your business and provide additional space for customers and employees to interact; for example, consider how line ups or seating could be expanded so that people are able to maintain physical distancing.  
  • Increase hours of shopping to decrease density of customers throughout the day. 
  • Provide early shopping hour choices for seniors.
Cleaning and hand hygiene
  • An owner must make hand sanitation options available for customers (per December 24, 2020 PHO order); we further recommend to 
    • Increase the frequency of routine cleaning activities – if you are cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces once a day, move to twice a day using the products you already use, and
    • Ensure your washrooms remain stocked with soap and hand towels. 
Other useful information may be found on the Employers and Businesses main page that includes:
  • Managing ill workers
  • What workers and employers should know about COVID-19 test results
  • Cleaning and Disinfection/Sanitation methods
  • Spread of COVID-19 in the workplace
  • Physical distancing in the workplace

Vancouver Coastal Health Authority Resources

National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health Resources




SOURCE: Retail stores ( )
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