Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Tips

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This tip sheet is for employers, workers and patrons of cinemas as an overview of potential hazards due to COVID-19 and related control measures.

In all cases, guidance from local public health authorities must be followed and general COVID-19 prevention practices should be implemented as outlined in Protect Yourself and Others from COVID-19.

Consider the Risks

The risk of contracting COVID-19 increases in situations where people are working in closed spaces (with poor ventilation), crowded places, and around people from other households. Risk is higher in settings where these factors also include activities such as close-range conversations, singing, shouting, or heavy breathing.

Working at a cinema or movie theater exposes workers to many of the above situations. COVID-19 transmission during these activities depends on the setting, the number and characteristics of people, physical proximity, duration and type of interactions, and the effectiveness of health measures put in place.

Employers Should Consider

  • How will patrons and employees be protected? Conduct risk assessments of all job tasks and interactions with the public. Review assessments and implement solutions to make the workplace safer for employees and patrons.
  • What type of setting is it? Indoor settings can accumulate viruses in the air when crowded or poorly ventilated. Large spaces with high ceilings and good ventilation will have lower risk of virus transmission.
  • How many people will employees interact with, and how close are the physical interactions? The risk of transmission increases with close and frequent contact. Installing properly sized and positioned plexiglass barriers in key locations can lower the risk.
  • What kind of interactions will employees have? Train employees to avoid non-essential interactions with people outside their immediate household. When unable to avoid interactions, do so while keeping the greatest distance possible.
  • How long are the interactions? Evidence indicates that the person-to-person spread is more likely with longer contact. Train employees to keep interactions as short as possible.
  • Do employees and patrons frequently have contact with high-touch surfaces or objects? If so, remove the object from service or modify them to be contactless. Otherwise, increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfection.
  • Are face masks required for patrons and employees in your jurisdiction? If so, when and where must masks be worn (e.g., required unless drinking)? Check local public health restrictions and enforce them in your facility.
  • How many people are allowed in the facility at one time? Follow the current public health restrictions of your local jurisdiction for total number of patrons.
  • Are you anticipating or observing crowds in your facility? Consider reducing your maximum capacity or make operational changes to avoid crowds as much as possible. For additional information consult federal and provincial public health websites.

Each workplace is unique. It is important for employers to assess the risks of COVID-19 for their specific workplace and implement appropriate hazard controls using the hierarchy of controls (i.e., elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, personal protective equipment (PPE)). Use a layered approach when implementing the chosen combination of hazard controls.

Consider implementing a workplace safety plan to identify and implement solutions for COVID-19 associated risks. The plan should address all identified risks in priority order.

Elimination and Engineering Controls

Implement these controls to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace. The priority should be having as few people as possible in the workplace while maintaining safety protocols.

  • Implement a work from home program and make participation mandatory for employees that do not physically need to be on site. They should work from home as often as possible.
  • Provide hand washing stations or hand sanitizer dispensers (with minimum 60% alcohol content) in high-traffic areas such as entrances, exits, service counters, and breakrooms.
  • Ventilate indoor spaces appropriately. The more enclosed the space, the more ventilation will be necessary. Consult with an HVAC expert if necessary.
  • Ensure that air circulation or cooling fans are not directing air flow from person to person.
  • Modify lineup areas for shows or concession stands, modify stanchions to keep pedestrian cross traffic at least 2 metres apart. Show minimum safe distance by installing ground level markings.
  • Place high-touch games or screens and activities that promote crowds out of service (e.g., arcade game areas, birthday party rooms).
  • Install barriers to separate employees from visitors where possible and appropriate. Barriers should be appropriately sized and positioned to block respiratory droplets from being carried from person to person. Barriers should be cleaned and disinfected at least daily.
  • Facility renovations and upgrades to consider:
    • Install motion-activated automatic doors.
    • Install hand motion-activated automatic faucets.
    • Automatic flushing toilets and urinals.
    • Hand or foot activated soap, towel, and sanitizer dispensers.
    • Upgrade water fountains with bottle refill stations.
    • Replace soft surfaces with hard surfaces which are more easily disinfected (i.e., change carpet to tile, cushioned benches to wooden or plastic benches).
    • Ventilation systems: seek advice from HVAC experts on ways to increase indoor/outdoor air exchanges per hour, and available options for air filtration and disinfection. An example is installing UV germicidal lighting within HVAC systems or mounted within the ceiling.

Administrative Controls

These types of controls reduce risk through policies, procedures, and training. They rely on personnel management and compliance to be fully effective. Applied properly, they can minimize coronavirus transmission.

It is possible for COVID-19 to be spread by people who do not have any symptoms. When setting up controls consider that everyone is potentially infected. Implementing and enforcing policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in cinemas is critical to protecting employees and the public.

Physical distancing and staffing related changes

  • Create and enforce a physical distance policy for your operations. Communicate these requirements to all employees and visitors.
  • Remind staff and visitors to minimize non-essential in-person interactions with people from other households. Interactions should be kept brief and at the greatest distance possible (at least 2 meters).
  • Limit the number of people allowed in washrooms at one time. Configure the space to have alternating sinks, stalls, and out-of-service urinals if they are within 2 metres of each other.
  • Minimize contact for employees reporting to work by simplifying the process as much as possible.
  • Adjust daily staff levels to have the fewest people in the workplace (where safe to do so).
  • Comply with building occupancy limits recommended by public health authorities.
  • Consider having groups of employees that work the same shifts, and keep groups separate as much as possible.
  • Continue with safety and informational meetings but avoid gatherings of people where possible. Conduct meetings virtually. If that option is not possible, gather in small physically distanced groups, preferably outdoors or in large well-ventilated locations.
  • Remove as many touchpoints as possible. For example, do not share radios during shifts, and try to assign cleaning tools to one employee for the full shift.
  • Minimize close physical contact for all job tasks or modify them so they can be performed by one person (if safe to do so). If that is not possible, train all employees to properly wear masks when they work within 2 metres of each other and keep the interaction as short as possible.
  • Plan for how employees and visitors will maintain physical distance while evacuating the building in the event of an emergency.
  • Prepare for exceptions to distancing guidance such as for anyone rescuing a distressed person, providing first aid, or performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
  • Consider providing support to employees who are off sick, and encourage them to stay home when they feel ill, even if symptoms are mild.
  • Provide laundry service for work uniforms or require employees wear freshly cleaned uniforms or clothes for each shift. Clothes should be bagged and washed after each shift.

Mask wearing

Proper mask wearing reduces the number of viruses released into the surrounding environment by infected individuals. Having physical distancing and mask wearing policies in place is an effective way to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

  • Implement a mask wearing policy. Communicate these requirements to all employees and visitors.
  • The policy should include when, where, and which type of mask is required to be worn.
  • Require masks to be properly worn, well-constructed, and well-fitting.

Employee training

  • Provide COVID-19 specific training to your employees. At a minimum, include the following:
    • COVID-19 symptoms and what to do if they start having symptoms
    • How to prevent the spread of COVID-19
    • How to protect themselves
    • Ways to stay informed (using reputable sources)
    • Good respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene
    • Changes to policies/procedures due to safety plan findings
    • About the benefits of COVID-19 vaccine
  • Teach employees to avoid unnecessary physical contact such as hugs, handshakes, and high fives, as well as after-work gatherings.
  • Train employees on proper technique for cleaning and disinfecting equipment such as controls, screens, tools, radios, personal devices (e.g., cellphones). Give workers time at the start of each shift or when they take over a workstation or job assignment to disinfect.
  • Discourage the sharing of personal items such as cellphones or lighters.
  • Train employees to wash hands or sanitize after touching shared items (e.g., checklists, clipboards, pens, tablets, trays, carts).

Screening and contact tracing

  • Administer a health screening for all people that enter the building. Questions should include current symptoms (if any), and recent travel and potential COVID-19 exposures (templates are available from your local public health authority or OHS organizations). Consider having employees submit screening results using an online company portal.
  • Employees that pass screening should be allowed to work. Individuals who do not pass screening should contact their supervisor. The supervisor should recommend that they stay (or return) home and monitor their health or symptoms. Suggest that they contact their health care provider or local public health authority if they develop symptoms or symptoms worsen.
  • Visitors that pass screening should be allowed into the building, and those that do not should be denied access.
  • Log all employees and visitor access to the building. This record will make it easier to inform persons of potential COVID-19 exposures. If requested, provide the information to the local public health authority to assist their contact tracing efforts. Make sure that privacy is protected, and that the information is stored in a safe and secure manner. Contact information should be properly destroyed as required by local privacy laws.


  • Managers should keep up to date and comply with orders from their local public health authorities or regulators.
  • Clearly communicate to employees and visitors all new practices and policies that will affect their experience. Communicate these changes at training sessions, entrances, on websites, by email, and during the ticket purchase process.
  • Put up information posters in high traffic areas (to inform and constantly remind people of good behaviours such as hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, self screening, and current COVID-19 safety measures).
  • Communications should be written using easy to understand terms, in official and local languages.
  • Use graphics and pictograms to clearly inform visitors about desired and undesired actions.

COVID-19 Response Plan

  • When a person reports having COVID-19 symptoms, immediately have them wear a mask (preferably a respirator or medical mask, if not available a well-constructed and well fitting non-medical mask).
  • Immediately isolate the symptomatic person from others in a designated area or room.
    • After the person leaves, clean and disinfect all surfaces/objects that the symptomatic person may have touched or been close to.
  • Suggest to the symptomatic person that they should self-isolate at home as soon as possible, seek medical care if necessary, and follow instructions from their local public health authority (information is available on their websites).
  • Instruct the symptomatic person to avoid using public transit, taxi, and ridesharing, if possible.
  • If an employee or visitor informs you of a positive COVID-19 test result, report it to your local public health authority and cooperate with any contact tracing efforts. You may also be required to inform employees who might been exposed unless that is the responsibility of your public health authority. Advise all at-risk employees to carefully monitor their health.
  • If the infection is suspected to have occurred at the workplace, confirm with the agencies responsible for OHS (Occupational Health & Safety) and workers compensation in your jurisdiction if this illness needs to be reported. Complete an incident report and begin an investigation.

Cinema Specific Guidance

  • Local public health authorities may mandate maximum per theatre occupancy in your jurisdiction, keep up to date and comply with those requirements as they could change. If your jurisdiction does not have an occupancy limit, ensure each household group is seated at least 2 metres from others (in all directions) in each movie theater.
  • Stagger movie start times to reduce crowds in lobby, concession stands and theatre queues.
  • Consider running announcements on pre-show entertainment for patrons about safe behaviours, best practices, and current safety protocols.
  • Post signs at theater entrances or during pre-movie announcements that patrons are required to throw out their own waste as they leave the theater. This assistance will reduce touch points between patrons and employees.
  • Consider having disposable non-medical masks available and provide them to patrons (for free or at a cost) that arrive without them.
  • All washrooms should be frequently checked to ensure adequate supplies and that cleanliness is maintained.
  • Serve food and drinks in disposable plates and cups to minimize exposure of employees.
  • Drink refills should be provided in a fresh cup.
  • Continue following Health Canada, local health authority, and corporate/employer guidelines for safe food preparation.
  • Do not allow food or drink to be consumed in areas that do not have adequate physical distancing.
  • Remove access to condiments (e.g., butter, ketchup, and salt), utensils, or napkins to patron. Provide them upon request.
  • Disable water fountains, promote touchless bottle refill stations instead, if available.
  • Promote online ordering to minimize lineups at concession stands.
  • Consider temporarily disabling hand dryers and providing hand towels to reduce the chance of the virus entering the air.
  • If the radios have earpieces that cannot easily be disinfected between users, consider providing each user their own personal earpiece or using the radios without the earpiece accessory.
  • Promote the purchase of tickets by onsite self-serve kiosk, app, website, or third party to prevent close contact between employees and patrons during ticket purchases.
  • To protect patron to patron transmission, consider controlling access to self-serve kiosks. Disinfect touchscreens and payment pads between patrons.
  • Attempt to operate as a cashless venue (i.e., all services prepaid, online payments, accept credit/tap payment options only), removing cash as a touchpoint between patrons and employees.

Drive-in Theatre Specific Guidance

  • Ensure people stay in their vehicles during the movie and discourage mingling between people not from the same immediate household.
  • Inform patrons that masks are required when physical distancing is not possible, such as at concession stands or washrooms.
  • If audio speaker is still required to hear the movie, clean and disinfect the speaker between uses.
  • Consider leaving alternating parking spots empty to provide appropriate physical distancing during warm weather when patrons are likely to have windows open.

Cleaning and Disinfection

Follow general cleaning guidance found outlined in Protect Yourself and Others from COVID-19

  • Operators should focus on ticket and food counters, self-serve kiosks, arcade games, security podiums, door handles, theater seats and arm rests, 3D glasses, assisted audio devices, food and drink preparation equipment, waste and recycling bins, touchscreens, payment pads, tellers, and frequently used office equipment and washrooms.
  • High transmission risk objects and surfaces should be disinfected multiple times a day.
  • Ensure washrooms are cleaned frequently, have running water or alternative, and are stocked with soap, paper towels and a plastic lined no-touch waste container.
  • Consider applying long lasting antimicrobial products to high-touch surfaces.
  • Train all employees on the safe use of all cleaners, referring to product labels and Safety Data Sheets for details.
  • Ensure washrooms are cleaned and disinfected frequently, have running water, and a plastic lined waste container.
  • If reopening after a prolonged closure, additional disinfection should be performed. Flushing of water fixtures to eliminate water borne diseases should also be performed.

It is important that mental health resources and support are provided to all workers, including access to an employee assistance program, if available.

For further information on COVID-19, refer to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Note that this guidance is just some of the adjustments organizations can make during a pandemic. Adapt this list by adding your own good practices and policies to meet your organization’s specific needs.

Disclaimer: As public and occupational health and safety information is changing rapidly, local public health authorities should be consulted for specific, regional guidance. This information is not intended to replace medical advice or legislated health and safety obligations. Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, CCOHS does not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current. CCOHS is not liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the information.

Document last updated March 26, 2021