This tip sheet is for employers and workers in public transportation including buses, trains, subways, light-rail trains, streetcars (trams), and ferries. It provides an overview of potential hazards and risks due to COVID-19 and guidance regarding control measures.
Person-to-person interactions are longer and more frequent, especially when less than 2 metres apart (e.g., crowded vehicles or platforms, etc.).
In crowded or poorly ventilated places.
Exposed to respiratory particles that contain the coronavirus (e.g., released by infected people when they speak, cough, sneeze, etc.).
People have inadequate hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, or access to cleaning facilities and products.
Touching shared surfaces and objects frequently.
There are many local community COVID-19 cases or hospitalizations.
Sick workers or customers are allowed to enter or stay in the workplace.
Risk of transmission increases when several of these risk factors occur at the same time. Consider all possible COVID-19 exposure scenarios in your setting and perform a COVID-19 risk assessment. Develop or use an existing risk assessment checklist to document and evaluate all work setting characteristics, activities, and job roles. Conduct separate risk assessments for each facility to account for differences between sites.
Sample questions to ask during a COVID-19 risk assessment:
Are indoor spaces properly ventilated?
Where do workers and customers 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 (i.e., older or otherwise vulnerable)?
What are the high-touch surfaces and shared objects (e.g., washrooms, door handles, grab handles, etc.)?
Meet your legal occupational health and safety obligations by doing everything reasonably possible in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of your workers.
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 workplace hazards or negatively impact existing safety controls. Review and adjust measures as necessary in consultation with the workplace health and safety committee or representative.
Create and implement a written workplace COVID-19 safety plan supported by the risk assessment. The plan should document the control measures meant to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19. 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 who are at high risk of severe disease or outcomes (i.e., immunocompromised, have chronic medical conditions, or older) from a COVID-19 infection.
Consider creating and implementing a COVID-19 vaccination policy which follows applicable government requirements.
Discuss any concerns about the COVID-19 vaccination policy with the health and safety committee or representative, and union (if present).
Communicate the workplace controls and the public health measures that are in place to all workers in languages they understand. Specific training requirements and recommendations may vary depending on your jurisdiction. Communications should accompany all workplace changes. Allow workers the opportunity to share their questions and concerns, address them, and provide feedback within a reasonable time.
COVID-19 specific training for workers should include the policy, plans, procedures, which include the following:
Screening poster (obtained from your local public health authority): Entrances to buildings and vehicles, transit stops (e.g., bus stop noticeboards or train stations, transit apps).
Signs indicating the maximum occupancy for rooms, spaces, or vehicles.
Floor markers or posters which encourage physical distancing.
Screening and Contact Tracing
Screening and contact tracing may be required in your jurisdiction. If not, consider implementing the most appropriate screening methods for your setting.
The purpose of screening is to reduce COVID-19 spread by identifying individuals who may have the virus and keeping them out of the workplace. Contact tracing is also meant to reduce the spread by informing those who potentially have been exposed to a person who is COVID-19 positive.
Implement a screening policy which outlines the type of screening each worksite requires: passive or active.
Passive screening is when individuals self-monitor and self-report possible illness or exposure to COVID-19.
Active screening is when individuals respond to questions about possible signs or symptoms of infection, recent possible COVID-19 exposures, or recent travel outside of Canada.
Determine if you are required to implement contact tracing for your workplace. If so, maintain a list of all workers entering the workplace, including their names, contact information, and time spent on the site. 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.
Individuals that pass the screening can enter the facility or vehicle. Anyone who does not pass the screening should be denied access.
Workers who do not pass the screening should contact their supervisor. The supervisor should instruct them to stay (or return) home and monitor themselves for symptoms. Workers should contact their health care provider if they develop symptoms or symptoms worsen. They may also need to contact their local public health authority, if required.
COVID-19 Response Plan
When any person experiences COVID-19 symptoms while already in the facility or vehicle:
Immediately have them wear a mask (preferably a respirator or medical mask, or if not available, a well-constructed and well fitting non-medical mask). A respirator used in this way (source control) may not need to be fit tested.
If possible, 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.
If the case is work-related involving a worker, additional notifications may be required. Contact your jurisdictional OHS regulator and workers’ compensation board for guidance. 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.
Make sure that your sick leave policy supports workers who are or may be sick. Support may include paid or unpaid sick leave, long-term disability, and government programs (if available).
For additional information on what to do if someone is identified as having symptoms or has potentially been exposed to COVID-19, please refer to:
Whenever possible, open windows in vehicles and set the ventilation system to use outdoor air instead of recirculating air.
Maintain ventilation systems and seek advice from a Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) professional on possible improvements (e.g., increasing air exchanges per hour, reducing or eliminating recirculated air, or upgrading to air filtration and disinfection).
If possible, run HVAC systems for two hours at maximum outside airflow before and after the rooms and/or building are occupied.
Run washroom and kitchen exhaust fans that vent to the outside to help remove contaminated air.
Make sure that air circulation or cooling fans do not direct air flow from person to person.
If ventilation cannot be improved, consider portable air filtration units with high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filters.
Keep humidity between 30% and 50% for indoor settings.
For additional information on indoor ventilation, refer to:
Consider installing transparent physical barriers to reduce the spread of respiratory particles. Barriers should be:
Positioned to block the flow of respiratory particles between individuals (e.g., service desks, between bus drivers and customers, etc.), 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.
Affect the ability to work safely (e.g., restriction range of motion or access to controls).
Completely surround individuals.
For additional information on physical distancing, refer to Physical Barriers – CCOHS
Physical distancing requires people to:
Maintain a safe distance from others (at least 2 metres in all directions).
Avoid non-essential in-person interactions.
Keep interactions as few and as brief as possible.
Workplace physical distancing measures to consider:
Follow occupancy limits and physical distancing requirements defined by the local public health or government authority. Adjust limits according to each space (e.g., washrooms, elevators, etc.) or when requirements change.
Reduce the maximum number of passengers in each vehicle. Adjust trip schedules or add more vehicles to routes. Prevent crowding, especially during rush hour.
Use visual cues to help keep customers physically distanced from workers (e.g., a red line on the floor of a bus which separates the driver from passengers).
Designate travel paths, as appropriate, to reduce close pedestrian traffic (e.g., one way travel into stations, onto platforms, etc.).
Spread workstations apart. Where possible, avoid having more than 1 worker at a time at each workstation.
Limit access to seating, sinks, urinals, etc. which are close to each other.
Modify tasks to minimize close physical contact.
Schedule work to avoid having workers crowd spaces.
Determine if any employees can work remotely and provide ergonomic support and resources.
Avoid in-person gatherings such as social events.
Maintain physical distancing on breaks.
Place workers that frequently work together into cohorts (teams or crews). These cohorts should physically distance from others, and work, travel, and take breaks together (e.g., inspectors, security workers, maintenance staff, etc.)
Allow exceptions to distancing guidance in certain circumstances such as rescuing a distressed person, providing first aid, or performing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).
Encourage passengers to store their luggage in the designated spot (e.g., overhead bin above the seat). For checked luggage, designate a luggage drop area or method that allows for physical distancing. Space luggage adequately when passengers are claiming bags.
For additional information on physical distancing, refer to:
Encourage good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
Provide hand washing stations or hand sanitizer dispensers (always with minimum 60% alcohol content) in high traffic areas such as transit stops, platforms, high pedestrian traffic areas in stations, entrances, exits, breakrooms, and washrooms. Regularly check and restock dispensers.
Encourage everyone to sanitize or wash their hands before starting work, eating or drinking, putting on masks, and leaving the work area. And after touching shared items, equipment, or cash, refueling, using the washroom, removing masks, and cleaning and disinfecting.
Discourage individuals from touching their eyes, nose, mouth, or masks if their hands have not been washed or sanitized.
Discourage unnecessary physical contact such as handshakes.
Reduce the number of shared objects and equipment.
Limit the number of workers that operate each vehicle (i.e., assign a single operator per vehicle instead of multiple vehicles).
Do not allow workers to share personal protective equipment (PPE) 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.
Have workers store their personal items (such as jackets) in separate lockers, in labelled and sealed bins/bags, or spaces which do not allow physical contact between each person’s belongings.
Remove non-essential items from public and worker areas that people may touch (e.g., magazines, advertising booklets, etc.).
Replace paper documentation with electronic versions, wherever possible (e.g., receipts for deliveries, business cards). If handling of physical documents is unavoidable, wash or sanitize hands afterwards.
Cleaning and Disinfection
Viruses can remain on objects for a few hours to days depending on the type of surface and environmental conditions. Develop a cleaning and disinfecting schedule. The schedule should identify when cleaning needs to be done, and checklists can be used to record when it has taken place. Provide adequate cleaning and disinfecting supplies and appropriate personal protective equipment.
PPE includes such items as respirators, medical masks, eye protection, gloves, and safety footwear.
Eye protection (such as safety glasses, goggles, or face shields) may be worn in addition to a mask when in close physical contact with others. Note: face shields are designed to protect the face and eyes and cannot be used as a substitute for masks. Continue to use PPE for existing occupational safety hazards and emergencies. COVID-19 PPE policies must not interfere when a higher level of protection is needed for the task.
Conduct a hazard assessment and make sure that workers have the correct PPE for the tasks and activities they are performing.
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).
Follow the mask wearing requirements of your local public health authority and jurisdiction. If not required, mask wearing should still be encouraged as an additional measure when there is 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.
For some individuals, not being able to see a workers’ face and mouth clearly may cause difficulties (e.g., hard of hearing, using lip-reading, needing to see facial expressions). Consider using masks with a transparent window.
Implement or update the workplace heat-stress program, as mask wearing may increase physiological stress during high-exertion tasks.
Masks should not be worn by anyone who is unable to remove the mask without assistance (e.g., due to their age, ability, or developmental status).
Make sure that all workers understand that all types of masks have limitations, and improper mask use and disposal can increase the risk of infection.
Respirators worn as source control (reducing the respiratory particles spread by the wearer) do not need to be fit tested and are not considered PPE when used in this way.
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.