While the COVID-19 pandemic is changing daily, the occupational health and safety legislation and regulations remain in effect. Employers continue to have the legal duty to keep workers safe, and workers continue to have the right to refuse unsafe work. Effective communication of potential hazards, safety procedures and policies will help ensure positive outcomes. To help address COVID-19 concerns on a work site, consider the following best practices:
Hazard and Risk Assessment:
Identify your actual or potential hazards and level of risk by performing a formal, documented hazard and risk assessment. Identify adequate controls for each hazard, and ensure those controls are in fact mitigating the risk. Involve workers in this process for their input (including worker safety representatives, and union, if applicable).
Everyone can take individual steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Personal hygiene tips include:
a. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
b. Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and wash your hands afterwards
c. Avoid commonly touched areas including handrails, public transit poles or ensure you clean your hands after
d. Open doors and touch elevator buttons with gloves, the back of your hand, or other body part or activate the wheelchair accessibility button with the back of your hand, elbow or knee if possible
e. Wash your clothes as soon as you get home
f. Notify your supervisor immediately if you are sick and contact public health.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are shared with many other illnesses including the cold and flus. At this time, it is recommended that any worker who is experiencing any symptoms should be sent home. In addition, Employers should advise all workers experiencing symptoms to complete the self-assessment tool on the Ontario COVID website and follow instructions therein.
Public Health is the leading authority for all issues related to COVID-19 and only they can provide detailed instructions to employees and employers.
Communication is essential. It is important to provide all staff with a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities. Ensure potential hazards, and subsequent control methods health are updated, communicated and posted.
Consider communicating with your workforce DAILY. Both management and workers should communicate as often as necessary, but daily is recommended since there are daily updates from government as the situation changes.
All employers should have a written COVID-19 policy and response plan that are posted and communicated with all employees. This includes how the work site will safely operate, including but not limited to:
a. The sanitization of the work site
b. How to report illnesses
c. Recommended PPE or other control methods
d. How to ensure social distancing, and
e. How work will be scheduled.
Social Distancing is recommended to help control the spread of COVID-19. In order to ensure social distancing on work sites, Employers should consider the following:
a. Staggered Start times
b. Staggered breaks and lunches
d. Total number of people on-site and where they are assigned to work
e. Site movement (where higher potential of workers are travelling / gathering)
f. Work at a safe distance (2 metres is the current recommended social distance). If the job or task requires workers to work in close proximity to each other, the hazards and risks should be assessment and adequate controls implemented.
All employers should increase the sanitization of work sites. Areas of focus should include:
a. Washroom facilities
b. Break rooms and cafeterias
c. Commonly touched surfaces or areas (tools / door handles / microwaves / vehicles, etc.)
In order to keep work sites effective, schedules will need to change as impacts of social distancing will impact productivity. Employers and workers need to collaborate to ensure there is a clear understanding of how work will be impacted.
Tracking the Workforce:
Due to the latency period of COVID-19, it is important to track when workers report an illness as well as where they have worked. In the case of a positive test, Public Health will ask Employers to provide information on where an Employee worked as well as the contact information of anyone who may have been exposed (come in close contact). The better employers track information, the better Public Health can respond.
All levels of government are issuing updates and information daily. To stay updated please use the following official links:
Ontario COVID-19 webpage: //www.ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus
Canada COVID-19 webpage: //www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-diseasecovid-19.html
Public Health Ontario: //www.publichealthontario.ca/