This document is for employers of summer camps (day-camps and overnight youth camps). It provides an overview of recommended controls to help reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. It can also help workers, volunteers, camp participants and their parents or caregivers, and visitors to understand the responsibilities of the sector to help protect them from the spread of COVID-19.
In all cases, guidance from local public health authorities and your jurisdictional OHS regulator must be followed. Meet your legal occupational health and safety obligations by doing everything reasonably possible under the circumstances to protect the health and safety of your workers.
Summer camps vary widely in size, their setting, the activities and services they provide, and the participants who attend. A variety of general tips have been provided here. Apply the ones that best fit your workplace.
Consider the Risks
Each workplace is unique. Employers need to perform a COVID-19 risk assessment for their specific workplace, job roles, and activities (routine tasks and in-person interactions). Examples of areas for summer camps to review include shared participant and worker facilities, drop-off and pick-up, food service, group activities and education, sports and athletic equipment, emergency and medical first-aid response, and camp maintenance.
The risk of COVID-19 transmission is increased with close proximity (less than 2 metres) and in-person interactions (close-range conversations, touching), generation of respiratory droplets (when speaking, coughing, sneezing, singing, shouting, and during strenuous activities that increase breath rate), crowded or closed spaces with poor ventilation, inadequate personal hygiene practices or facilities, and contaminated surfaces (fomites). Risk of transmission increases further when several of these risk factors are present in the same setting.
Once the risks have been identified and evaluated, the employer must implement appropriate hazard controls using the hierarchy of controls (i.e., elimination, substitution, engineering, administrative, personal protective equipment), including multiple personal preventive practices in a layered approach. Consider implementing a workplace safety plan to identify and implement solutions for COVID-19 associated risks. The plan should address as many aspects as possible in priority order.
When implementing COVID-19 control measures, assess the potential impacts to existing infrastructure, activities, and worker or participant safety. Make sure you do not create new workplace hazards. Update existing policies and procedures as needed to incorporate COVID-19 transmission control measures. Continue to evaluate how effective the controls are and make changes if needed.
Here are example questions that can be asked, to help you identify COVID-19 risk factors and appropriate controls for your workplace:
What are the main work zones, job roles, and routine activities?
Where and when do workers interact with other people while working?
How close are the interactions? Do they need to be close for certain job tasks (i.e., when and where is physical distancing not possible)? The risk of transmission increases with close and frequent contact.
How long are the interactions? Evidence indicates that spread is more likely with prolonged contact.
How crowded is the workplace? The risk of spread increases when people gather.
Are workers and participants sleeping in congregate housing? The more time people spend together in an indoor space, the more likely a COVID-19 transmission will occur.
Are workers sharing camp or private vehicles? Are they transporting camp participants?
Do workers stay at one workstation or do they travel throughout the indoor facilities and outdoor grounds throughout their shift?
Are workers or participants attending multiple different day-camp programs? This can increase the risk of community spread.
Are participants from one geographical region, or from several? Inter-regional travel can increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 including the variants of concern (VOCs).
Are buildings ventilated passively (by opening windows and doors) or mechanically (by ventilation systems)? Is indoor ventilation sufficient? Poor ventilation in closed spaces can result in accumulation of virus particles.
Do workers and participants have easy access to personal hygiene facilities (e.g., running water, soap, and hand sanitizer)?
How are equipment and tools used in the workplace? Are they shared between people? Sharing items between people could spread illness by fomite transmission.
How often and by which method are surfaces and objects cleaned and disinfected? Have the selected disinfectant products been assessed for effectiveness against coronaviruses, and for potential chemical hazards to workers, participants, and the environment?
Do workers and participants have the knowledge and resources they need to protect themselves and others against COVID-19?
Could language barriers impact the ability of workers and participants to understand and follow the transmission control measures?
Are there participant factors that could make control measures more difficult to implement and follow (e.g., based on their health, age, disability, developmental status, or other socio-economic and demographic circumstances)?
Are you able to assess if a person may be sick or have been exposed, and rapidly take appropriate actions?
Are sick leave policies adequate to support worker isolation and quarantine?
Elimination or Substitution
These types of controls eliminate exposures (at the workplace):
Workers whose jobs can be performed remotely should work from home e.g., office and support staff not directly involved in on-site activities.
Use remote communication technologies such as video/teleconferencing when possible. Consider offering camp programs online if in-person activities are not possible.
The entire workplace or specific services and facilities may require temporary closure, due to jurisdictional lockdown measures or as determined by the risk assessment.
These types of controls use physical infrastructure to reduce workplace exposure. They rely on good design and maintenance to be fully effective.
Install appropriately sized and positioned barriers where physical distancing of at least 2 metres between people cannot be maintained, such as at reception desks and gates, food service counters, washroom sinks, lunchroom tables, and sleeping cots.
Barriers should block respiratory droplets, extend above head height, and allow free and safe movement of the worker or participant within their enclosed zone. Refer to local public health guidance for detailed instructions on barrier design and installation.
Use plexiglass, plastic curtains, or other impermeable (non-porous) materials that are durable and easy to clean and disinfect.
Guide pedestrian traffic and queues using lane barriers, each lane spaced to be sure that individuals are at least 2 metres apart in all directions.
Poor ventilation has been linked to COVID-19 outbreaks by allowing the accumulation and transmission of infectious respiratory particles in indoor spaces. Continually ventilating indoor spaces will dilute and replace the potentially contaminated air.
Make sure that:
any indoor work is conducted in a space that is well ventilated.
windows and doors are kept open where it is safe to do so (don’t prop open fire doors).
a licenced heating ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) expert is consulted before making any changes to ventilation systems, or blocking airflow through indoor spaces (e.g., before installing physical barriers or sub-dividing rooms).
stale air is not re-circulated within or between indoor spaces. Re-circulation is often used to reduce heating and cooling costs, but can negatively impact air quality.
if group transportation must be used, the vehicle cabin ventilation is at the maximum flow and fresh air intake settings (no re-circulation), and windows are opened.
exhaust fans are fully functional, operating at maximum capacity, and remain on.
air circulation or cooling fans are not directing air flow from person to person.
ceiling and portable cooling fans are on low-speed settings.
other ways can be used to help keep workspaces cool, such as shutting off heat generating equipment when not in use or allowing fewer people into closed spaces at one time.
Install enough handwashing stations and hand sanitizer dispensers to ensure easy access for all persons in the workplace.
If plumbing is not available, provide a spouted water container and catch basin, with water, soap, and paper towels. Consider providing personal-use sanitizer dispensers to each worker.
Reduce the number of touchpoints:
Install door hardware that can be operated using wrists or elbows, or prop non-fire doors open. Be careful not to create new hazards (tripping or fire).
Install automatic touch-free doors, lighting, water taps, drinking fountains, sanitizer dispensers, toilet and urinal flushers, and paper towel dispensers (e.g., motion-activated or timed).
Replace hand-operated waste bin lids with motion or foot activated lids.
Use contactless bill payment methods, such as debit or credit card tap, wireless phone payment, or e-transfers.
Use touch-free methods for workers to clock in, such as electronic key cards, messaging/e-mail, or rollcall by a supervisor.
Replace soft surfaces (carpets, seating) with hard surfaces (tile, wood, metal, plastic) that are easier to clean and disinfect.
Consider re-purposing rooms if more space is needed to spread participants out, for example an activity room might be converted into additional space for sleeping cots.
Use larger well-ventilated rooms or outdoor spaces (weather permitting) for meetings, breaks, and camp activities.
Rearrange, remove, or block-off extra workstations and furniture to increase distancing.
Consider closing or limiting indoor sit-down eating areas, while expanding outdoor eating areas with well-spaced picnic tables and seating.
Restrict people from entering zones they do not perform work in or need access to (does not apply in emergency situations). Secure doors and gates if needed.
Establish one-way walking routes in corridors, stairways, and on loop trails to minimize cross traffic.
Use signs and floor markings (at least 2 metres apart in all directions) to indicate where people should stand and walk.
Consider marking zones in outdoor spaces where people congregate for long periods of time, such as beaches, picnic areas, campfire circles, amphitheatres, boat docks, and sports fields. Space the zones the greatest distance apart possible (at least 2 metres) apart and make each zone large enough for comfortable use. Use weather resistant materials to mark the zone edges (e.g., brightly coloured pegs, field marking powder, rope, rocks, branches, flagging tape), taking care to not create tripping hazards.
These types of controls reduce risk through policies, procedures, and training. They rely on personnel management and compliance to be fully effective.
COVID-19 Safety Plan
Having a COVID-19 safety plan supports existing business continuity processes such as risk assessment, hazard control and mitigation, change management, and emergency response. A written plan may be legally required by the jurisdiction in which you operate. It may need to be posted, and available upon request from an inspector. Reach out to regional authorities for details on what must be included in the plan.
It is recommended that the plan:
Be specific to the workplace infrastructure, activities, and job roles.
Lists all of the controls implemented to protect workers and participants.
Outlines how to respond to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.
Considers what to do if large numbers of workers or participants need to be isolated, quarantined, or will require medical care, e.g., personnel logistics and coverage for absent workers.
Describes what to do if a person with COVID-19 requires emergency first-aid.
Be implemented and maintained by a designated administrator or committee.
Be reviewed and updated frequently to comply with evolving public health measure in response to the pandemic.
Be communicated to supervisors and workers as part of their training.
Passive screening relies on workers to self-monitor and notify their employer if they feel sick or have possibly been exposed to COVID-19. For participants and others, self-screening could be prompted by a notice posted on the door, an automated phone message, a registration package, or a website listing symptoms and entry restrictions.
Active screening requires the employer to ask workers questions about symptoms and potential exposure events before each work shift. For participants and others, active screening could be done by a worker posted at the camp entrance, or over the phone.
Screen all people before they enter the camp, including workers, participants, parents and caregivers, visitors, inspectors, or contractors.
During drop-off, ask parents and caregivers to wait until their child has completed the screening process and is allowed into the camp facility, before departing.
Make sure to ask relevant questions. Create your own list of questions or use a generic checklist form.
Screen for the most common symptoms of COVID-19 and act accordingly to findings (even if symptoms are mild).
Screen for potential exposure to COVID-19 in the past 14 days:
Recent travel (international or domestic)
Contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19
Community outbreaks, such as at a local school, store, or event
If there is an outbreak, you may be asked to provide contact information to the local public health authority to assist their contact tracing efforts. During screening, record names, contact information, dates or times the person was present at camp, and where at camp they worked or participated in activities. Make sure that privacy is protected, and that the information is stored and destroyed in a safe and secure manner.
If readily available and feasible, consider implementing routine rapid testing of all consenting workers and participants as an additional active screening measure. Be prepared to respond to rapid test results (e.g., include this in your control plan).
Consider requiring a pre-arrival quarantine period for all workers and participants. Plan for what to do if a worker or participant must leave an overnight camp mid-season. They may need to quarantine again before rejoining the camp.
Inform workers and participants about the benefits of the national COVID Alert App.
What to do if a person is symptomatic or exposed
If a person does not pass the screening process, do not allow them into the camp.
If a worker or participant in the workplace is identified as having symptoms, or has potentially been exposed to COVID-19:
Call 911 if symptoms are life-threatening.
Have them wear a medical (surgical) mask. If unavailable, they should properly wear a well-constructed, well-fitting non-medical mask.
Do not allow the worker or participant to take part in communal activities (work or play), they should begin self-isolation immediately.
Make every effort to keep them isolated before sending them home.
Immediately contact the parent or caregiver of the participant to arrange for transport back home.
Plan for how a sick worker will be transported home safely. Discourage them from using public transit, taxi, or rideshare.
Suggest that they then stay home and contact their health care provider or local public health authority if they develop symptoms or symptoms worsen.
Workers who live on-site should be isolated in a separate living area, and have necessary supplies delivered to them by the employer.
A separate living area should also be designated for participants who need to be isolated, if they cannot return home immediately.
Clean and disinfect any areas, surfaces, and objects the sick person may have used, and air-out those rooms.
Develop procedures for contacting local public health authorities for further advice in the event of a positive COVID-19 case.
If the case is work-related involving a worker, additional notifications may be required, contact your jurisdictional OHS regulator and worker compensation board for guidance. Complete an incident report and begin an investigation.
Implement and enforce an indoor and outdoor physical distancing policy.
Keep in-person interactions few, brief, and from the greatest distance possible (at least 2 metres).
Job tasks that require workers to be in close contact with others should be modified if possible.
Consider implementing a cohort system, i.e., dedicated groups of workers or participants. Make sure that different cohorts do not mingle together. The use of cohorts limits the severity of any potential COVID-19 outbreak, and also helps with contact tracing.
Cohorts can be scheduled to work, participate in program activities, attend meetings and training, take breaks and mealtimes, ride on group transportation, and share living accommodations together.
For younger children who require more assistance with following COVID-19 precautions, consider using smaller cohorts.
Schedule adequate time between program activities in indoor places. Allow buildings to fully ventilate before the next cohort enters the space, also minimizing interactions between cohorts as they arrive and leave.
Workers and participants should minimize in-person interactions with people from outside of their immediate household or assigned cohort group.
To help reduce community spread, encourage workers to only work at one job location, and participants to select a single day-camp program to attend.
Manage bookings and cancellations online or over the phone; discourage walk-ins.
Limit pick-up and drop-off of participants and workers to one parent/caregiver or member of their immediate household.
Limit the number of persons gathered at one time, indoors and outdoors. Do not exceed the occupancy limits set by your jurisdiction.
Stagger participants pick-up and drop-off times, and workers shift start/end and break times to reduce crowding at entrances and exits.
Discourage use of carpooling, public transit, and rideshare services.
Discourage people from congregating during breaks and between program activities, including in outdoor break areas and weather shelters.
For unstructured free-time periods, book time slots for use of popular equipment and facilities to reduce the chance of participants congregating while they wait.
Consider offering more frequent but smaller group activities, allowing for more space between participants.
Hold traditionally indoor activities outdoors, weather permitting (e.g., crafts, movies).
Discourage unnecessary physical contact such as hugs, handshakes, and high fives.
Choose to run non-contact activities and sports or modify them to be non-contact.
Have children sleep and nap as far apart as possible. Orient the cots or mats “head to toe” to distance their faces, and consider using physical barriers between them.
Have children face the same way for as many activities as possible, and specifically avoid activities involving face-to-face positioning.
Singing is a high-risk activity that can project infectious respiratory particles long distances. Avoid singing wherever and whenever possible. Reduce the number of performers or use a solo artist if increased distancing or barriers between performers cannot be accommodated. Choose pre-recorded options for musical activities or sing outdoors with participants properly distanced.
Minimize field trips and excursions. If group transportation must be used, spread the passengers out as much as possible (staggered seating, assigned seats, skip rows, etc.).
Plan for how workers will maintain physical distance while evacuating or sheltering-in-place in the event of an emergency. Plan for exceptions to distancing guidance, e.g., when providing emergency first aid or rescue.
Limit or reschedule visits to your workplace by external contractors and suppliers, minimize contact with workers, and do not allow contact with camp participants.
Methods of goods delivery may vary by supplier. Consider scheduling large deliveries during hours when there are less people present or arrange for curb-side pickup.
Good Hygiene Practices
Encourage frequent hand hygiene for all people in the workplace: when entering and leaving buildings, before and after the work shift, between program activities, handling and preparing food, touching shared items, using equipment and tools, coughing and sneezing, touching their face mask, using the washroom, etc.
Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or if not available use hand sanitizer (more than 60% alcohol-based). If hands are visibly dirty, they must be washed with soap and water.
Some participants may need additional supervision and help with hygiene (e.g., younger children or those with special needs).
Consider supplying a basic hygiene kit to each worker and participant (if age appropriate), containing such items as extra masks, individual hand-sanitizer container, tissues, and disinfectant wipes.
Encourage good respiratory etiquette, instruct workers and participants to cough and sneeze into their sleeve or a tissue and not their hand.
Discourage yelling, singing and chanting, which can cause infectious respiratory particles to travel for long distances.
If providing food service, do not serve food and beverages buffet-style from communal containers. Do not share lunchroom eating utensils and glassware. Provide individually wrapped food servings, utensils, and condiments. Day-camp participants could bring their own bagged lunches and snacks. Discourage food and drink sharing.
Do not allow people to share personal protective equipment (PPE), uniforms, face masks, cellphones, learning aids, and water bottles.
Do not share musical instruments such as woodwinds and brass (i.e., any instrument that is played by blowing air into it), the reeds and mouthpieces, or microphones. Other musical instruments may be used if they are made of durable materials that can tolerate cleaning and disinfection, such as metal, plastic, or solid/sealed hardwood.
Consider providing each person or cohort with their own set of equipment and activity supplies. If items need to be shared, clean and disinfect between users, and perform hand hygiene.
Limit the use of materials that are difficult to clean and disinfect without damage. Quarantine of some items (e.g., personal floatation devices, books, games, soft toys and puppets) may be required to allow time for virus particles to become inactive.
Provide laundry service for uniforms or require workers wear freshly cleaned uniforms or clothes for each shift. Clothes should be bagged and washed after each shift.
If responsible for participants laundry, ensure that linens and clothes are washed frequently. Do not shake dirty laundry. Use disposable gloves and perform hand hygiene after handling laundry. Clean and disinfect hampers and bins.
Keep each camper’s belongings separate. If they do not have lockers or desks, provide sealed bins or bags to store their personal items, footwear, and clothing. Remove communal coat storage areas.
Cleaning and Disinfection
Make sure that all disinfectants used are effective against coronaviruses. Refer to this Health Canada guidance for hard-surface disinfectants and hand sanitizers. Verify that selected products have a drug identification number (DIN) from Health Canada. Also consider potential environmental impacts of chemical products on sensitive ecosystems.
Follow the product manufacturers instructions for safe handling and effective use. Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) if required.
Develop a cleaning and disinfection program, with schedules and checklists for each work and participant area. Take into account the number of users and potential risk of transmission when planning the schedule.
Clean and disinfect shared working and living spaces at least once a day, prioritizing frequently touched surfaces.
Clean and disinfect shared objects between users, such as sports and playground equipment, bicycles, boat paddles, musical instruments, hard craft supplies (glue sticks, crayons and markers, paint-brush handles), etc.
Consider creating dirty/clean or colour-coded signs to clearly indicate equipment or room status.
Remind people to also clean and disinfect personal devices such as cellphones.
Clean and disinfect group transportation vehicles between users (keys, steering wheel, gear shift, controls, vents, belts, seats, interior and exterior door handles, etc.).
Perform a deep cleaning of living accommodations between groups of campers.
Make sure public washrooms and showers (if open) are cleaned more frequently, have running water, and are stocked with soap, paper towels and a plastic lined no-touch waste container.
Porta-potties should be cleaned frequently, and also be stocked with disinfectant spray, paper towels, and alcohol-based hand sanitizer for visitors to use.
If an external service contractor must visit (e.g., for construction or repairs), clean and disinfect their work area before and after their visit.
Use accessible formats (written, infographics, verbal) and language(s) appropriate to the audience to make sure they can understand the instructions.
Use multiple communication platforms, e.g., registration system, social media, campground signage, camp publications, verbal reminders from camp staff and supervisors, etc.
Consider preparing a COVID-19 information package for parents and caregivers to read and explain to their children, before they book or arrive at the camp. Be available to answer questions and provide support.
Communicate changes such as new practices, policies, and service limitations that will affect your participants. Inform them that their experience might be different than before or expected. Remind them to be considerate of camp staff, other participants, and the environment (e.g., avoid littering used masks and wipes).
Use signs and barriers to clearly mark facilities and trails that are closed.
Monitor compliance and repeat the communication and training as often as needed.
Encourage workers to report any COVID-19 concerns to their employer, supervisor, health and safety committee or representative, or union if present.
Ensure that managers and supervisors understand the risks, control measures, and policies. They must stay up to date on current legal requirements as the pandemic situation evolves.
Before they visit, communicate with external service providers about your COVID-19 controls, and also work with those services to assist with their COVID-19 precautions.
Follow the mask wearing requirements of your local public health agency and jurisdiction, including for children and masks.
Consider requiring that masks be worn at all times except when eating, drinking, swimming, showering, or sleeping (younger children).
Make sure that wearing a mask does not create new hazards such as from entanglement (moving equipment) or flammability (open flame or sparks).
Non-medical masks are useful in reducing the spread of COVID-19 but are not considered to be personal protective equipment (PPE) as they do not meet regulated testing and certification standards. Continue to use PPE for existing occupational safety hazards and emergencies as directed by applicable laws.
Implement or update the workplace heat-stress program, as mask wearing may increase physiological stress during high-exertion tasks.
Masks must be well-constructed, well-fitting, and worn properly.
Masks should be replaced when they are wet, visibly dirty, or contaminated with respiratory fluids. If damaged, single-use masks should be disposed of and reusable masks repaired. Re-useable masks should be cleaned and dried between uses.
There is great variation in the quality of masks available from retail sources. Consider providing appropriate single-use medical (surgical) masks or re-useable fabric non-medical masks to workers and participants.
For some children, not being able to see an adults’ face and mouth clearly may cause difficulties. Consider using a clear mask.
Staff may also wish to use eye protection (such as safety glasses, goggles, or a face shield) in addition to a mask, when in close physical contact with children.
Modify shift schedules to support both regular activities and COVID-19 control measures:
To reduce the potential daily exposure time of each worker, reduce the length of long shifts (e.g., 10+ hours), or rotate them to tasks that are not participant-facing.
Incorporate extra time into workers schedules for them to complete their regular tasks safely, while also meeting physical distancing, personal hygiene, and cleaning-disinfection requirements (e.g., without rushing or cutting corners).
Adjust daily staff levels to have the fewest people in the workplace, while making sure tasks can be completed safely, and participants have enough supervision.
If there are fewer workers available, make sure essential roles such as trained supervisors, and first aid or emergency response team members are present on each shift. Make sure workers are trained to work safely including when replacing the duties of others.
Provide scheduling and financial support for workers to attend local vaccination clinic appointments, if these occur during work hours.
Adopt flexible leave policies that enable sick workers to stay home:
Communicate that sick workers should not come to work
Designate a process for sick workers to immediately notify their supervisor
Provide support to workers who are off sick
Do not penalize workers who must take leave to isolate or quarantine
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.