Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Tips

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Community Centres

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Introduction

This tip sheet is for employers and workers of community centres (multi-purpose facilities) including recreational facilities, libraries, meeting and conference centres, sports facilities, etc. It provides an overview of potential hazards and risks due to COVID-19 and guidance regarding control measures. Consider referring to the indoor pools and sports activities tip sheets for more detailed information on those topics.

COVID-19 is a contagious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Infected individuals can spread the virus through respiratory particles when they cough, sneeze, breathe, etc. People can become infected when they inhale particles that contain the virus or by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their face with unwashed hands.

In all cases, follow guidance and requirements from your local public health authority and your jurisdictional Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) regulator.

Refer to guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and CCOHS documents for general COVID-19 prevention practices:

COVID-19 Health and Safety Resources

Protect Yourself and Others from COVID-19

COVID-19 Health and Safety Planning for Employers

COVID-19 Prevention for Workers

COVID-19 FAQ

Specific Tips for Community Centres

  • Communicate to all workers and visitors (e.g., website notices, poster at entrances, etc.) that people who are sick (or may be sick) with COVID-19 should not enter the community centre.
  • Require all workers to continuously self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. If symptoms are reported, ask the worker to isolate according to their local public health authority isolation requirements.
  • Conduct group training and meetings virtually, outdoors, or in well-ventilated indoor spaces with participants spaced out, whenever possible.
  • Have workers work at only one location, if possible.
  • Consider having work cohorts (groups of workers that have the same work schedule, work in the same areas, and have breaks at the same times). Keep cohorts separate as much as possible.
  • Avoid using pedestal or floor fans. If fans must be used make sure they do not direct air flow from one person to another.
  • Consider ventilating spaces between activities (e.g., open windows and doors to the outside for a few minutes or adding time between activities and making sure ventilation systems are operating). Vehicles should also be ventilated between groups, if being used.
  • Implement measures that promote physical distancing and reduce indoor crowds:
    • Remind workers to maximize the distance between themselves and others (e.g., meetings, in changerooms, in activity spaces, when providing instruction, etc.).
    • Stagger worker meal and break times.
    • Rearrange (or remove) furniture at entrances, in changerooms, at service counters, and in spectator areas to create more space.
    • Consider limiting seating in spectator areas.
    • Evaluate job tasks, modify as many as possible to be single person tasks (if safe to do so).
  • If the community centre is a designated civic emergency shelter, plan for how workers, participants, and community members will maintain physical distance while sheltering-in-place in the event of an emergency. Normal community centre activities may need to be suspended in the event of a civic emergency.
  • Discourage yelling, singing, and chanting and keep music volumes low in the facility.
  • Consider disabling water fountains but keep bottle refill stations available.
  • Install sanitizer dispensers in high-traffic areas (e.g., main entrance, outside break rooms, outside activity rooms, gyms, meeting spaces, in hallways, at fire doors, etc.).
  • Reduce the amount of paper documentation or other items being exchanged between workers and visitors. Consider exchanging documents electronically. If this exchange cannot be avoided, wash or sanitize hands after handling items.
  • Require workers wear freshly cleaned uniforms or clothes for each shift.
  • Consider creating dirty/clean or colour-coded signs to indicate equipment or room status.
  • Consider limiting the use of equipment (e.g., computers, radios, cleaning equipment, sports equipment, tools, playing cards, art supplies, etc.) to one worker, especially when it is difficult to clean and disinfect. If equipment must be shared clean and disinfect it between users. Make sure workers are trained on proper cleaning and disinfecting technique.

Consider the Risks

The risk of COVID-19 transmission is increased when individuals are exposed to several risks at once, such as:

  • When person-to-person interactions are longer and more frequent.
  • In crowded spaces, especially when people cough, sneeze, or exhale forcefully.
  • In poorly ventilated spaces with other people.
  • When people have inadequate hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, or do not have access to cleaning facilities and products.
  • When shared surfaces and objects are touched frequently.
  • When community COVID-19 hospitalizations or cases are high or increasing.
  • When sick individuals are allowed to stay in the workplace.
  • When individuals are exposed to several risks at once.
  • When other risks are high and workplace health measures are relaxed (e.g., dropping indoor mask wearing requirements, requiring all workers to return to the workplace, etc.).

Consider all possible COVID-19 exposure scenarios in your setting and perform COVID-19 risk assessments. Develop or use an existing risk assessment form to document and evaluate all work setting characteristics, activities, and job roles. It is good practice to review your assessment on a regular basis to make sure your control methods are effective.

Sample questions to ask during a COVID-19 risk assessment:

  • Are indoor spaces properly ventilated?
  • Where do individuals gather?
  • What activities require interactions, communication, or touching shared objects?
  • How long, frequent, and physically close are interactions between people?
  • Are people able to maintain adequate physical distance from each other?
  • Which workers are at higher risk?
  • What are the high-touch surfaces and shared objects?
  • Do individuals normally participate in activities that create respiratory droplets (e.g., singing, shouting, etc.).
  • Are people expected to stay in an enclosed space for an extended duration?

Control Measures

Meet your legal occupational health and safety obligations by doing everything reasonably possible in the circumstances to protect the workers and ensure the health and safety the workplace.

To provide the highest level of protection to workers, use multiple public health measures and workplace controls in a layered approach. No single measure is completely effective alone. Be careful not to create new hazards or negatively impact existing safety controls. Review and adjust measures as necessary in consultation with the health and safety committee or representative.

Create and implement a written workplace COVID-19 safety plan supported by the risk assessment. A written plan may be legally required by the jurisdiction in which you operate. Refer to local authorities for details on what must be included in the plan, if it needs to be posted, etc.

Implement policies and programs to accommodate workers, particularly those who are at high risk of severe disease or outcomes (i.e., immunocompromised, have chronic medical conditions, or are older) from a COVID-19 infection.

Communication and Training

Communicate new and updated workplace controls and applicable public health measures to all workers in languages they understand. Specific training requirements and recommendations may vary depending on your jurisdiction. Allow workers the opportunity to ask questions and share concerns. Respond to questions and provide feedback within a reasonable time.

Train workers on COVID-19 specific topics such as:

  • How to identify and respond to COVID-19 symptoms.
  • What to do if exposed and how to get tested for COVID-19.
  • How and when to report COVID-19 illness.
  • Information on vaccines and options for vaccination.
  • How to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect themselves at work.
  • Ways to stay informed using reputable sources.
  • When to clean, and how to safely use cleaning and disinfecting products.
  • How to properly wear, handle, and care for personal protective equipment and masks.
  • Information on mental health support services, including an employee assistance program (EAP), if available.
  • For additional information on communication and training, refer to COVID-19 Communication and Training – CCOHS.

Post appropriate signs (e.g., about COVID-19, preventing the spread of infections, hand washing technique, occupancy limits, encouraging physical distancing, screening poster, mask wearing requirement, etc.) where they can be seen by workers and visitors, such as:

  • At entrances.
  • Where mask use is mandatory or recommended.
  • Near high-touch surfaces.
  • In washrooms, changerooms, and break rooms.
  • In doorways and walkways.
  • Additional locations, as needed.

Screening and Contact Tracing

The spread of COVID-19 can be reduced by:

  • Screening: keeping individuals who may be infected with COVID-19 out of the workplace.
  • Contact tracing: identifying and notifying people exposed to the virus and offering advice.

Screen individuals who enter the workplace, if required by your local jurisdiction. Consider having a screening program even when it is not required as an additional measure to protect your workers.

  • Determine which type of screening your worksite requires: passive or active.
    • Passive screening requires individuals to self-monitor and self-report possible illness or exposure to COVID-19.
    • Active screening requires individuals to respond to questions about signs or symptoms of infection, recent possible COVID-19 exposures, or recent travel outside of Canada.
  • Allow individuals that pass the screening to access the workplace. Deny access to anyone who does not pass the screening.
  • Have workers who do not pass the screening contact their supervisor. The supervisor should instruct them to return (or stay) home and follow local public health guidance which may include isolation, testing for COVID-19, or contacting their healthcare provider or public health authority.
  • Determine if you are required to implement contact tracing. If so, maintain a list of all individuals (for which contact tracing applies) entering the workplace, including their names, contact information, and time spent in the workplace. This information should be provided to the local public health authority if requested for the purpose of contact tracing. All information must be safely stored and destroyed as required by privacy legislation.
  • For additional information on screening and contact tracing, refer to:

Ventilation

Physical Barriers

Install transparent physical barriers to reduce the spread of respiratory particles. Barriers should be:

  • Positioned to block the flow of respiratory particles between individuals, especially if the interactions are frequent and less than 2 metres apart.
  • Tall and wide enough to cover the breathing zones of both individuals on either side.
  • Made from non-porous materials.
  • Cleaned and disinfected at least daily.

Carefully plan the placement of barriers. They must not:

  • Block aisles or exits.
  • Negatively impact ventilation.
  • Reduce visibility.
  • Affect the ability to work safely.
  • Completely surround individuals.

For additional information on physical barriers, refer to Physical Barriers – CCOHS.

Physical Distancing

Physical distancing requires people to:

  • Maximize the distance from others (at least 2 metres in all directions) who are not part of their households or groups.
  • Avoid non-essential in-person interactions.
  • Keep interactions as few and as brief as possible.

Physical distancing measures to consider:

  • Follow occupancy limits and physical distancing requirements of local public health or government authorities. Adjust limits according to each space or when requirements change.
  • Modify the physical space to make it bigger if possible, such as accessing additional space, providing outdoor space for lines or removing temporary walls.
  • Spread workstations apart. Avoid having more than 1 worker at a time at each workstation.
  • Avoid having workers face each other, where possible.
  • Limit access to seating, sinks, urinals, etc. which are close to each other.
  • Modify tasks to allow physical distancing.
  • Determine if any employees can work remotely and provide ergonomic support and resources.
  • Avoid in-person gatherings such as social events.
  • Schedule work to avoid having workers crowd spaces.
  • Allow exceptions to distancing guidance in certain circumstances such as assisting a distressed person, providing first aid, or performing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).
  • For additional information on physical distancing, refer to COVID-19 and Physical Distancing – CCOHS.

Hygiene Measures

  • Encourage good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
  • Provide hand washing stations or hand sanitizer dispensers (with minimum 60% alcohol content) in high traffic areas. Regularly check and restock dispensers.
  • Encourage everyone to wash or sanitize their hands at appropriate times:
    • at the start and end of shift,
    • before eating, drinking, or smoking,
    • after touching shared or high-touch items, equipment, and surfaces,
    • after using the washroom,
    • after coughing or sneezing,
    • after cleaning and disinfecting,
    • before and after putting on or removing personal protective equipment or a mask.
  • Discourage individuals from touching their eyes, nose, mouth, or mask especially with unwashed hands.
  • Discourage unnecessary physical contact.
  • Reduce the number of shared objects and equipment.
  • Do not allow workers to share personal protective equipment or masks.
  • Reduce the number of high-touch points by having:
    • Motion activated doors, faucets, toilets, urinals, and lighting.
    • Hand motion or foot pedal activated dispensers (for soap, paper towels, sanitizer, etc.) and plastic lined waste containers.
    • No touch methods of tracking worker attendance such as key cards or electronic messaging.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

Viruses can remain on objects for a few hours to days depending on the type of surface and environmental conditions.

  • Clean and disinfect the workplace on a routine schedule.
  • Focus on high-touch objects and surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, handles, rails, buttons, light switches, and faucets), which should be cleaned and disinfected more often and when visibly dirty.
  • Use approved hard surface disinfecting products.
  • Provide adequate cleaning and disinfecting supplies and appropriate personal protective equipment.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using, handling, or storing the product. Review the product’s label, and (if applicable) safety data sheet to determine what precautions to follow.
  • Allow adequate time for workers to disinfect any shared equipment between each use.
  • After cleaning and disinfecting:
    • Used cleaning cloths, towels, etc. must be properly handled to prevent cross-contamination and laundered or disposed of after every use.
    • Deposit heavily contaminated items into plastic lined waste containers.
    • Dispose of garbage at least daily.
  • For additional information on cleaning and disinfection, refer to:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE includes such items as respirators, medical masks, eye protection, gloves, and safety footwear.

  • Eye protection (safety glasses, goggles, or face shields) may be worn in addition to a mask when in close physical contact with others. Note: face shields do not provide respiratory protection and cannot replace masks.
  • COVID-19 PPE policies must not interfere when a higher level of protection is needed for a task.
  • Workers may need PPE for COVID-19 protection if they are:
    • Performing tasks that require them to be less than 2 metres from another person.
    • Using cleaning and disinfecting products (refer to the manufacturers’ safe handling instructions).
    • Providing emergency first-aid.
  • For additional information on PPE, refer to:

Mask Wearing

  • Follow the mask wearing requirements of your local jurisdiction. If not required, mask wearing should be encouraged as an additional measure when there is a high risk for COVID-19 spread, or when physical distancing is not possible.
  • Masks should be comfortable, well-constructed and well-fitting, covering the nose, mouth, and chin.
  • Consider using masks with a transparent window when communicating with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Masks should not be worn by anyone who is unable to remove it without assistance (e.g., due to their age, ability, or developmental status).
  • Allow workers to wear masks, even if not required, based on their discretion (e.g., being at risk of more severe disease, working in crowded setting, etc.).
  • For additional information on masks, refer to:

Vaccination

  • Consider creating and implementing a COVID-19 vaccination policy which meets all applicable government and organizational requirements.
  • Discuss any concerns about the COVID-19 vaccination policy with the health and safety committee or representative, and union (if present).
  • Provide accommodation to any worker that has a valid exemption.
  • Consider providing support for workers:
    • To attend local vaccination clinic appointments if these times occur during work hours.
    • Experiencing temporary side effects from vaccination.
  • Before allowing entry to the workplace, request proof or attestation of vaccination from workers, if required by your government authorities or by organizational policy.
  • Maintain COVID-19 controls and public health measures as required, even if most workers are fully vaccinated.
  • For additional information on vaccination, refer to:

COVID-19 Response Plan

  • Develop and implement a plan to handle suspected cases of COVID-19 and emergencies.
  • When any person experiences COVID-19 symptoms while in the workplace:
    • Immediately have them wear a mask (preferably a respirator or medical mask, or if neither is available, a well-constructed and well-fitting non-medical mask). A respirator used in this way (i.e., as source control) may not need to be fit tested.
    • Have them leave as soon as possible.
    • If they cannot immediately leave, have them isolate in a designated area, away from others, until they can leave.
  • Call 911 for medical assistance if symptoms are life threatening. If it is a worker, notify their emergency contact.
  • Refer to your jurisdictional OHS regulator and workers’ compensation board for requirements regarding reporting, if required.
  • Complete an incident report and begin an investigation.
  • Refer to guidance from your local public health authority to determine when the worker can return to work.
  • Consider updating your sick leave policy to provide support to workers who are or may be sick. Support may include paid or unpaid sick leave, long-term disability, and information on government programs, if available.
  • For additional information on COVID-19 response refer to Responding to COVID-19 in the Workplace – CCOHS.

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 September 8, 2022