Employers continue to have the legal duty to keep workers safe, and also owe a social duty of care, and protection, to their customers. Effective communication and controls of hazards, safety protocols and physical safety will help ensure positive outcomes and ensure confidence. To help address COVID-19 protection for essential workers AND customers, consider the following best practices:
Hazard and Risk Assessment:
Identify the actual and potential hazards and level of risk by performing a formal, documented hazard and risk assessment for the physical work and shopping space. Also identify hazards and risk based on specific tasks, and pathways of travel. Identify adequate controls for each hazard, and ensure those controls are in fact mitigating the risk. Involve workers in this process for their input and also listen to and watch your customers for concerns.
Everyone can take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Personal hygiene tips (download our free poster here) should be posted for workers and customers to see, and may include:
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands,
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and wash your hands afterwards,
- Avoid commonly touched areas unless sanitized and ensure you clean your hands after,
- Open doors with 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,
- Change and wash your clothes when you get home; and
- Notify store management immediately if you are sick and contact public health for guidance.
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.
Customers should also be asked to refrain from shipping if they have symptoms. Offer them accommodation, if possible, to help them with essential products such as delivery or pick up.
Public Health is the leading authority for all issues related to COVID-19 and should be relied on for detailed instructions for workers, and customers.
Communication is key. Provide workers and customers with a clear understanding of precautions and responsibilities. Ensure all potential hazards, and subsequent control methods 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 and may also be based on feedback and actions of customers.
All employers should have a written COVID-19 (pandemic) policy and response plan that are posted and communicated with workers, and applicable sections posted for customers. This includes how the essential work will safely continue, including but not limited to:
- Sanitization methods and frequency,
- How to report illnesses and concerns,
- Recommended PPE or other control methods,
- How to ensure social distancing; and
- How work will and services 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:
- Staggered work start times and service hours
- Staggered breaks and lunches
- Total number of people on-site and where they are assigned to work
- Site movement (where higher potential of workers and customers are travelling / gathering)
- Work and shop at a safe distance (2 metres is the current recommended social distance). If the 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 common areas. Areas of focus should include:
- Washroom facilities,
- Break rooms and cafeterias; and
- Commonly touched surfaces or areas.
Work and Service Schedules:
In order to keep complaint while delivery essential services, schedules will need to change as impacts of social distancing will impact productivity. Employers, workers and customers need to cooperate to ensure there is a clear understanding of how work and services 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 when and 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.
Some employers are being extra diligent by screening workers before every shift for COVID-19 related symptoms such as temperature checking, and screening tool / assessment.
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/
How Spark Safety can help:
Need assistance with COVID-19 (Pandemic) Response Planning, Hazard and Risk Assessments specific to your workplace, or general advice? We can help! Our team of health and safety advisors are available to assist you to navigate through these unprecedented times. Contact us for a free consultation:
1-844-267-8600 or firstname.lastname@example.org