Covid-19 and Healthy Work

Safety workplace hardhat

COVID-19 has impacted the health of our workplaces, from human, operational, and economic perspectives.

Two weeks ago BC went from 300% to just 30% in week-to-week new COVID-19 cases, and the week of April 13th showed an increase of 18% new cases. These are significant decreases as they show continual improvement, and indicate B.C. is flattening the curve, and reducing further risk to these perspectives. I’ll update my blogpost this week with the new numbers.

Even with these reductions in new cases we still run the risk of exponentially increasing new cases if we stop using the measures we are all applying (hand washing, social distancing, and isolation) which can lead to thousands of new cases and impact our health care facilities.

Consider we just had a sunny Easter long weekend.  With some nice weather, and the recent stretches of isolation people might have been tempted to shortcut some of these measures and get out of the house.  

We won’t know for another week or two, but the weekend could have been detrimental to our efforts to flatten the curve and could erase any gains made in the last few weeks.

Quicker Recovery

If we can stick it out another few weeks there is potential for an even more significant reduction on the long term impact the pandemic will have. There is talk that B.C. may see some restrictions eased, if we continue our efforts.

A few more weeks of low numbers in new cases will have an incredible impact on our health, medical infrastructure, medical professionals, key services, communities and the economy.

This may allow us to consider slowly reintegrating some areas back into some degree of normal.

Gradual reintegration of social and economic activity might mean the economic rebound is slow also, but keeping cases down while doing so may result in a quicker and more sustainable recovery of the economy.

For now, we need many more weeks of continually decreasing new cases to start to build confidence in the possibility of resuming any degree of “normal” economic and social activities.

Managing Safety

As businesses, and organizations focus on maintaining some degree of operations at the moment, or consider what is needed should they be able to start operating again in a few months, there are some considerations from a health and safety perspective that should be included in the return to work plan:

  • Where and how can workers spread the virus?
  • What level of risk exists, and to who?
  • Do we have controls that effectively reduce risk?
  • Consider an exposure control plan if there is high risk of exposure
  • Have they communicated the hazards and controls?
  • Are they monitoring the hazards and controls?
  • Do staff have means to report any concerns?
  • Do staff and managers understand the right to refuse unsafe work?

Safety committees should be getting awareness and training on how to manage these issues at work.  The BC Municipal Safety Association and WorkSafe BC  have a number of resources workplaces can review.

Future Proofing

Our businesses and communities may be a long way from returning to normal, but now is the time to consider what changes may be required if and when businesses and organizations are able to return to some degree of operations. 


  • What lessons have been learned?  
  • What areas of the business were strengths and weaknesses during this?
  • What is the plan to reintegrate back into some degree of operational capacity?
  • If your business is going to be limited, or may not recuperate, what are the contingency plans?

The Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce has a number of resources for business in the Nanaimo Stay Strong section of it’s website.

Continuing to stay the course, assess our workplaces, review what we need to do now, and in the future can all contribute to maintaining a degree of health in our workplaces.  Right now, a healthy workplace should be everyone’s priority, from all perspectives.

Making a Business Case for Infection Prevention and Control at the Workplace

The exposure or spread of germs at the workplace has far-reaching consequences ranging from absenteeism from work, loss of productivity, temporary closures, litigation, and damage of company’s reputation.

Such a compelling case on the impact of infection transmission at workplace provides a basis for organizations to make business decisions dedicated to employees’ health and wellness.

Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) refers to evidence-based practices that, when applied consistently, can prevent or reduce the risk of transmission of germs.

Cost-effective analysis for IPAC reveals significant cost-saving possibilities for businesses. In fact, the most important immediate economic return for any organization may lie in outcomes such as a healthy workforce, high productivity and organizational excellence.

Now, the obvious question is that, if IPAC is cost-effective, why are there not more dollars allocated to IPAC efforts at workplace? Perhaps business owners do not fully understand the potential impact or benefit; maybe, there is lack of expert guidance; or perhaps business owner place less priority on employee’s health and wellness. The latter is obvious, however, if we examine the following: how often do facilities conduct infection transmission risk assessment or surveillance? Are there exposure control plans for occupational exposures? Are cleaners trained in basic IPAC as it relates to environmental decontamination? Is there an effective facility IPAC program or is employee immunization (especially for the flu, or other communicable diseases like TB) taken seriously?

To make a good business case for IPAC, it is important to review the cost and benefit of such a program. Some of the direct and indirect cost may include cost for expert consultation, administrative cost, and cost due to IPAC supplies in the facility, but the benefits are enormous.

Some of the benefits include reduction of sick days (absenteeism), employees’ wellness, productivity gains, retention, reduction in morbidity, and prevention of litigation issues. There may also be intangible benefits arising from the protection of the company reputation and public image. This is particularly important as there have been several incidents in BC where hotels, restaurants, grocery shops, nursing homes, childcare, schools, and gyms have been temporarily closed because of disease outbreak. Also, any identifiable risk that clients may be exposed to infectious threats from a facility will say whether the clients or others will return for future business transactions. This is what is often referred to as failure costs that arises from customer dissatisfaction and defection.

Dissatisfied customers are much more likely to talk about their experience than are satisfied customers and that negative word of mouth is more often believed than positive comments. This experience may translate into real purchase or services decisions which is likely to be negative. If this occurs customer retention and loyalty may be greatly affected. Therefore, the time to reflect on your organization’s IPAC program and occupational exposure policy as part of employees’ health and wellness initiative is now.

Are You Eating the Right Breakfast?

I don’t know if the old saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is true. It may not be the most important meal. But it certainly is an important one.

Starting off with the right breakfast raises your blood sugar gradually and keeps you full for hours. It’s like armour protecting you from the tempting, junky foods that surround us all day.

The great news is that there isn’t just one perfect breakfast. Many foods can make up the “right” breakfast. Here are the 4 important characteristics of the “right” breakfast (and some food ideas):

1. Produce. I highly doubt that you’re surprised at me wanting you to include fruit or vegetables in your breakfast. Most of us could use to eat more produce. So why not get a serving or two in at the start of the day? Eat a piece of fruit, top your oatmeal with berries, add some spinach in your omelet, or warm up last night’s stir-fry leftovers.

2. Protein. Here’s something that toast or cereal eaters often miss. Including protein will help your blood sugar be stable for longer, which means no mid-morning crashes and cravings for donuts. Sprinkle hemp hearts or chia seeds on your cereal, spread nut butter on your toast, or enjoy a couple of eggs.

3. Real whole grains. This one is optional. You may just want to include
protein and produce and you’ll be doing great. Others (me included) do better with some real whole grains at breakfast. What do I mean by “real” whole grains? I mean minimally processed grains. Something that you really have to chew.

There’s a lot of highly processed breakfast foods that claim to be whole grain and/or high fibre. I recommend avoiding anything that’s super light-weight, like a lot of breads and puffed cereals. They digest really fast and your blood sugar starts to drop quickly. Instead look for something that needs a lot of chewing, like steel-cut oats or is heavy to hold, like many sprouted grain breads.

4. Sugar. Again no surprises here (except where it can be hidden). Have as little added sugar as you can (ideally none). Watch out for it in “healthy” cereals, take-out smoothies made with fruit drink concentrates, and in “fruit”-on-the-bottom yogurt.

Start with the right breakfast and enjoy the benefits all day!

Tips for Reducing Sugar

It’s hardly breaking news that sugar isn’t healthy. You don’t need to eat zero sugar to be healthy. However, the reality is that most people eat too much sugar. I’m all about being practical. And, enjoying what you eat. So today, I’m sharing with you my favourite tips for reducing sugar intake.   

Before I jump in to the tips, I want to clarify a few things. First, today I’m talking about added sugar. I’m not talking about the natural sugar in foods like fruit and dairy. Second, I’m talking about all added sugars – white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave, coconut sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.

While there are some differences amongst these regarding their healthfulness, they all contribute calories without adequate nutrients. They also all create a spike in blood sugar that isn’t healthy for our bodies. I’m not using this post to debate which one is the best added sugar.

This post is about practical ways to reduce your overall intake of added sugars.

Another thing that I want to bring up before I share my tips for reducing sugar, is our bodies’ amazing ability to adapt. Including our taste buds. Taste buds are influenced by what we eat. If you eat a lot of sugar, then a highly sweet taste will become your ‘normal’. This gets in the way of enjoying foods that have a less-sweet flavour profile, such as vegetables, whole grains, beans/lentils and plain water.

The key strategy behind most of my tips is to take control over how much sugar you’re eating. Then, gradually decrease the amount of sugar that you add. As you do so, your taste buds will adjust. Eventually, unsweetened foods will taste good to you and you’ll enjoy eating them.

Also read: Healthcare plans; Reasonable and Customary Charges

You will notice that none of my lower-sugar tips involves switching to artificial sweeteners. I don’t take stock in the fear tactics that many people spread about them. However, I’m still not a fan for two reasons:

  1. They allow the continuance of having a highly sweet taste being your norm. Thus, they interfere with enjoying healthy foods that don’t naturally have a sweet flavour profile, such as plain water and vegetables.
  2. History has taught us that foods closest to the way Nature made them are our healthiest choices. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, pulses, and real whole grains; these foods, eaten close to their natural state, are the foundation of a healthy diet. Moving from added sugar to artificial sugar is moving further away from Mother Nature. What I recommend is to take steps to move towards foods in their natural state.  

Reducing Sugar Tip #1:

Switch from pop to flavoured sparkling water. Did you know that a can of pop has approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar in it?  Sports drinks and energy drinks have about the same.

If you’re a pop drinker, this is where I recommend starting because it’ll be the biggest bang for your buck. Many people I’ve met who are regular pop drinkers tell me that they find water disgusting. Water isn’t disgusting. It’s neutral. These folks are experiencing a super sweet taste bud calibration. Adding a splash of citrus or fruits or herbs to plain or sparkling water is a great way to get flavour without all that sugar.

Companies are seeing that there is customer demand for flavourful, no added sugar drink options and there are now many flavoured (sugar- and artificial sweetener-free) sparkling waters. The big soda companies make them. As do many smaller companies. It’s a trend that I’m loving.

Reducing Sugar Tip #2:

Fruit flavoured yoghurt may have a touch of fruit, but it’s mostly sugar in there. If you find plain yoghurt too sour, buy plain yoghurt and add your own jam, honey, or maple syrup. Slowly decrease the amount of jam/honey/maple syrup that you add until you’ve gotten accustomed to plain yoghurt. Also, it’s worth trying different brands of plain yoghurt. Some are sourer than others.

Reducing Sugar Tip #3:

Many healthy-seeming cereals contain quite a lot of sugar. Read the labels of your favourite brands and chose the one that has the least amount of sugar. Mix your favourite cereal with one that has zero (or almost zero) added sugar. Slowly alter the ratio until you’re eating a full bowl of the zero sugar cereal.

The same technique works with instant oatmeal. Buy one box of plain and one box of flavoured. Mix one packet of plain with your packet of flavoured oatmeal. Even better, make your own hot oatmeal or overnight oats. Add as much honey/ maple syrup brown sugar as you need. Then slowly cut back on it until you enjoy your oats with just fruit.

Reducing Sugar Tip #4:

I recently learned that Canadians have the highest consumption rate of food bars. Read closely the labels on granola and energy bars. All of them have some sugar. But the amount of sugar can really skyrocket. The sugar content can be highly variable amongst the different flavours by the same brand. So reading labels is the only way to spot lower and higher sugar choices.

Again, be practical. If you don’t like the lowest sugar bars, switch to a bar that you do like that has less sugar than your usual choice. Once your taste buds become accustomed to your new bar, stitch to a bar with even lower sugar. Homemade power spheres can be a great choice because you can control how much added sweetener you use in the recipe.

I hope these tips help you to start reducing your sugar intake today!

Health Care Plans: Reasonable and Customary Charges

medical insurance coverage benefits

Have you ever wondered what your Extended Health Care plan actually covers?

Typically, Extended Health Care plans include coverage for the services of several types of healthcare practitioners, such as chiropractors and massage therapists.

There is a range of usual fees practitioners in each province charge for services.

Insurance companies use these “reasonable and customary” fees as the basis for pricing their benefit plans and determining the maximum eligible amount that they will reimburse. Most provider associations publish a suggested fee schedule for their practitioners.  

However, there is no requirement for them to charge according to this and fees for similar services can sometimes differ substantially from one practitioner to another.

Most paramedical expenses claimed by plan members fall within the reasonable and customary fee range. If a healthcare practitioner chooses to charge more, the member is responsible for the extra cost. Does this make the current system outdated?

Below, are the reasonable and customary charges for each type of practitioner in British Columbia, Canada (note: Some carriers do not publish their listing as they believe it helps protect the plan member, as some service providers will then charge the maximum allowable rate, as well as limit any fraudulent or excessive service fees.)

Your plan may not cover all the practitioners listed below, so make sure to check your contract or contact your group benefits representative if you are unsure.

Practitioners’ reasonable and customary charges:

  • Acupuncturist (For Initial assessment and Subsequent visit) – $100
  • Audiologist (per hour) – $125 
  • Chiropodist or Podiatrist – (For Initial assessment and Subsequent visit) – $100
  • Chiropractor – Initial assessment $135; Subsequent visit $60 
  • Dietician (per hour) – $150 
  • Massage Therapist (per hour) – $100
  • Naturopath – Initial assessment $210;  Subsequent visit $155 
  • Occupational Therapist (per hour) – $140
  • Optometrist (For Initial assessment and Subsequent visit) – $120 
  • Ophthalmologist (For Initial assessment and Subsequent visit) – $200
  • Osteopath – (For Initial assessment and Subsequent visit) – $120
  • Physiotherapist – Initial assessment $80;  Subsequent visit $135
  • Psychologist (per hour) – $190
  • Social Worker (per hour) – $175
  • Speech Therapist (per hour) – $120

This list only reflects the maximum Reasonable and Customary amount allowed per treatment. Claims will still be subject to the terms of your policy.

Also read: Tips For Reducing Sugar

Usually, a plan limits paramedical services to one treatment, per service, per person, per day. It is the plan member’s responsibility to ensure their paramedical providers possess the credentials accepted by their insurance carrier.

We hope this guide helps you to better understand your Extended Health Care Plan.

If you’re an employer perhaps it will encourage you to review your plan, and whether change could potentially be beneficial for your employees Extended Health Care Plan.

The Value Of Employee Benefits

employee benefits by ly siu consulting

Why Should You Consider Offering Benefits To Your Employees?

As a small business owner, you understand how important your employees are to you. The company wouldn’t be where it is without them. Simply put, employees can make or break the company.

Besides wanting to treat your employees well and making sure they have everything they need to do the best job they can, you want them in good health. Employee benefits are the only way you will be able to ensure and enforce that your employees maintain the best of health.

This can be even more critical if your employees are operating machinery and vehicles or performing any task that could potentially put themselves or others at risk.

Employee benefits plans have numerous advantages:

  • Attract and retain high-quality employees; studies show better compensation and benefits is the number one reason candidates cite for accepting a job.
  • Creates a healthy culture; having healthy employees’ results in increased productivity and reduced absenteeism. This mitigates some of the cost of providing the benefits plan.
  • Tax Deduction; they are a tax efficient way to increase a compensation package for both employee and the employer.
  • Cost Effective protection for employees and their families; there are no requirements to pay into CPP or EI and the employee gets tax free medical benefits.
  • Increased morale; it helps establishes the company policy on health and sickness, employees feel that their well being matters.
  • And last but not least… Employees value employee benefits! For some people it can mean the difference in whether or not they or their child can get something like braces or glasses.

Today, top employees demand a comprehensive health insurance plan.  In fact, in a 2016 Canada health survey, 77% of respondents say they wouldn’t move to a job that didn’t include some health benefits.

As an employer that gives some solid reasoning as to why you should implement benefits (if you don’t offer them already). Employees are looking for a company that takes care of them and their needs, just as much as employers are looking for someone who takes care of the company and puts their best foot forward every day.

Employee benefits are just another reminder that you give what you get. In life and business it is doing things differently or better than everyone else that sets you apart. The truth of employee benefits is that offering them at all can help you rise above the competition when it comes to recruiting your next star employee.

Fork In The Road: The Right Choice For Your Spine?

spinal health - make a decision


Imagine you are on a road trip, driving along in the middle of nowhere, when all of a sudden you come to a fork in the road.

A sign by the left-hand fork reads: “Frequent bits of rough road ahead, increasing in frequency and difficulty. VERY difficult travel towards the end. Estimated cost of vehicle repairs: $200-$500 for each quick fix, until patching is no longer possible.”

The right fork also has a sign. It reads: “Challenging road at the beginning, followed by occasional minor bits of rough road to the end. Estimated cost of vehicle repairs: $2000-$5000.”

Assuming they both end up in the same place, which fork would you choose?

As a chiropractor, it has been my experience that many people go through the same decision-making process with their choice of spinal care. The easy, little-money-up-front option may be appealing, but is it ultimately the best choice?

The fact is, most back and neck pain is the direct result of years of neglect: disuse, misuse, abuse and no use. To undo these years of damage to the spine requires a lengthy commitment of hard work and, yes, money.  Patients who wait for the pain to go away or choose quick “patch jobs” seldom get lasting relief. Ignoring or patching a spinal problem means the problem remains uncorrected, and these patients discover that as time goes by, their pain gets worse, lasts longer and occurs more frequently. Chronic pain and disability can result.

Which fork in the road is right for you?  Only you can decide.

Choose wisely.