Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19

Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19

Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19 - main content

Guidance on Protecting Court Personnel and Court Users and General Practices for Cleaning and Disinfecting

On this page

A Statement from the Action Committee

Our Committee exists to support Canada's courts as they work to protect the health and safety of all court users in the COVID-19 context while upholding the fundamental values of our justice system. These mutually sustaining commitments guide all of our efforts.

The Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19 has released this document to provide guidance on protecting court personnel and court users and general practices for cleaning and disinfecting.

This document is intended as overall general guidance, and is not intended to replace protocols developed at the level of individual courts and courthouses. This guidance is advisory only and is not intended to replace applicable health and safety laws and regulations, nor does following this guidance ensure compliance with those laws and regulations. Awareness of, and compliance with legal responsibilities must form an integral part of court operations in response to COVID-19.

Guidance on Protecting Court Personnel and Court Users

  • Follow guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the local public health authority.
  • Develop written procedures outlining all of the preventative measures that are being taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and make sure court personnel and court users know what they are.
  • Require court personnel or court users who are experiencing symptoms, have been in contact with someone suspected of having or confirmed to have COVID-19, are waiting for COVID-19 test results, or have travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days, to stay and self-isolate. Follow the Public Health Agency of Canada’s steps for self-assessment and its related recommendations.
  • Limit the number of people that can access court facilities – including designated workspaces – at any time and post maximum occupancy notices so they are clearly visible. Designate personnel to monitor occupancy levels.
  • Screen court personnel and court users as they enter court facilities.
  • Wherever possible and subject to applicable legislation, collect basic information on all persons who enter the court facility, to support contact tracing efforts by the local public health authority as needed.
  • Ensure that all court personnel and court users wash their hands when entering the court facility. Recommend that everyone frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol, especially between activities that involve physical contact with common or high touch surfaces or close contact with others.
  • Provide hand sanitizer at all entrances and exits, on desks and tables and at occupied workstations. Ensure that hand hygiene stations are easy to access by everyone, including persons with physical disabilities.
  • Implement and monitor physical distancing measures and other controls such as Plexiglas barriers or dividers where possible to protect court personnel and court users. While such barriers do not replace the use of non-medical masks, they can provide an additional layer of protection.
  • Ensure proper ventilation in all work areas and other occupied indoor areas, and reduce noise levels as much as possible so people do not need to yell or shout. In particular, to improve ventilation:
    • Open windows and doors for a few minutes at a time during the day as weather permits and provided this does not pose a safety risk;
    • Run the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) fan continuously at a low speed to increase air movement and filtration;
    • Adjust building ventilation systems and air conditioning units to keep rooms cool rather than using powerful portable cooling fans that might increase the spread of COVID-19;
    • Limit the use of demand-controlled ventilation; keep the system running at the optimal setting;
    • Increase filtration efficiency to the highest level appropriate for the ventilation system. Clean or change air filters regularly as recommended by the manufacturer;
    • Consult an HVAC professional to ensure the HVAC system is suitable for the setting, activities, number of occupants and length of time the space is occupied, and before making any changes to the system;
    • If possible, run systems for two hours at maximum outside airflow before and after the rooms and/or building are occupied;
    • If possible, run bathroom exhaust fans continuously if they are vented to the outside;
  • Consider the use of portable high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters only in situations where enhancing natural or mechanical ventilation is not possible and when physical distancing can be achieved. Consult an experienced professional before using these devices.
  • Promote the proper wearing of well-constructed, well-fitting non-medical masks (NMMs) by court personnel and court users as advised by the local public health authority, and provide clear instructions on how to safely put on, wear and remove masks. When warranted by the local epidemiology and rate of transmission, the wearing of NMMs may be recommended at all times for court users and personnel, except when these would impede court proceedings or when a person is unable to wear a NMM due to young age or medical reasons such as difficulty breathing or being unable to easily take off a mask due to illness or disability.
  • Implement measures to accommodate and protect court personnel or court users when NMMs cannot reasonably be worn or should be removed to ensure the integrity of court proceedings, for example by providing face shields and installing Plexiglas barriers or other engineering controls.
  • Promote proper respiratory etiquette, such as covering the mouth and nose with flexed elbow or sleeve when coughing and sneezing. If tissues are used, dispose immediately and wash hands.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and equipment frequently following the manufacturer’s instructions, or with a bleach solution.
  • Develop a schedule for cleaning and disinfecting all high touch surfaces, equipment, and shared spaces.

General Practices for Cleaning and Disinfecting

Cleaning

A high touch surface is any surface that can be touched by bare hands by multiple people, multiple times.

  • Make sure that any person required to perform cleaning of any type has received the appropriate training plus a non-medical mask (NMM) and any required personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Train workers on how to work with and care for NMMs and PPE, and to understand their limitations.
  • Use a dedicated cloth for cleaning.
  • Create a checklist of all surfaces that must be cleaned, including door and sink handles, paper towel dispensers, counter tops, wheelchair access buttons, turnstiles, kitchen equipment, elevator buttons, vending machines, and printers/photocopiers.
  • Clean all areas, including offices, cafeterias, change rooms and washrooms.
  • Determine the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting based on the courthouse’s needs. Clean throughout the workday with more frequent cleaning when court is in session. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects shared between users (e.g. witness stands).
  • Clean courtrooms at the end of each day, and ideally between the hearings of distinct matters involving different participants.
  • Remove soft furnishings and objects (e.g. cushions, magazines, newspapers) that cannot be easily cleaned and disinfected.
  • Record when cleaning and disinfecting has occurred.
  • Ensure that court personnel receive training on, and follow, safe work procedures, and that they report any health and safety concerns immediately to their supervisor or health and safety representative.
  • Ensure that mental health resources and support are available to all court personnel, including access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
  • For further information on COVID-19, refer to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Disinfecting

  • Clean visibly dirty or soiled surfaces with soap and water before disinfecting.
  • Use a disinfectant or bleach solution to destroy or inactivate the virus.
    • Use a disinfectant with a drug identification number (DIN). This number means that it has been approved for use in Canada.
    • If household or commercial disinfectant cleaning products are not available, hard surfaces can be disinfected using a mixture of 5 mL of bleach (5% sodium hypochlorite) and 250 mL of water. Test surfaces before using a bleach solution. Bleach can be corrosive.
    • If liquids can be withstood, disinfect high-touch electronic devices (keyboards, tablets, smartboards) with alcohol or disinfectant wipes.
  • Follow the product manufacturer’s instructions, including any need for personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves.
  • Apply the disinfectant to a clean cloth. Saturate the cloth before treating touch points. Reapply as needed.
  • Apply enough disinfectant to leave a visible film on the surface.
  • Allow the surface to air dry. Reapply disinfectant to the cloth between surfaces.
  • Change the cloth daily or when it becomes visibly soiled.
  • In the event of a known or suspected case of COVID-19 in the court facility:
    • Close off all areas the person used or attended. Consider common areas (e.g., washrooms), and any shared items (e.g. touch screens).
    • Increase air circulation in those areas by using the ventilation system or by opening doors and windows.
    • Wait 24 hours if possible before cleaning the areas.
    • Use routine procedures for cleaning and disinfecting, as described above. Additional cleaning and disinfecting are not necessary if seven or more days have passed since the person who is ill or tests positive for COVID-19 was in the facility.
    • Continue with routine cleaning and disinfecting according to established schedules and protocols.

Resources and References

Document last updated February 9, 2021