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Work Camps

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Introduction

This tip sheet is for employers of workers who are working or staying at work camps. It provides an overview of potential workplace hazards and risks due to COVID-19 and recommends control measures. Additional controls may also be required depending on the specific work camp and the types of activities performed by employees.

Work camps are accommodations provided to employees who work in mining, logging, tree planting, construction, drilling, forest firefighting, resource exploration or a similar industry. They are often located in remote areas.

In all cases, guidance from local public health authorities and your jurisdictional Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) regulator must be followed.

Refer to guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada:

Refer to these CCOHS documents for general COVID-19 prevention practices:

Consider the Risks

The risk of COVID-19 transmission is increased when:

  • Person-to-person interactions are longer and more frequent, especially when less than 2 metres apart.
  • 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.
  • Frequently contacting high-touch surfaces, and shared objects.
  • There are many local community COVID-19 cases or hospitalizations.
  • COVID-19 variants that have a higher transmission rate are present.

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 local COVID-19 cases or hospitalizations high or rising?
  • Is the ventilation in enclosed spaces (e.g., buildings, vehicles, etc.) adequate?
  • Are workers able to maintain physical distancing?
  • Where do workers gather (e.g., kitchen, dining areas, showers, sleeping quarters, break areas, etc.)?
  • What activities require interactions, communication, or touching shared objects?
  • What are the high-touch surfaces and shared objects (e.g., washrooms, equipment, etc.)?
  • Do the activities cause heavy breathing or require verbal communication? Can they be modified?
  • How do workers travel to camp?
  • Are workers grouped into cohorts?
  • What tasks and activities are conducted by workers (e.g., obtaining supplies, eating meals, daily interactions, job-specific activities)?
  • How frequent and physically close are interactions between people?
  • Which workers are at higher risk (i.e., older or otherwise vulnerable)?

Control Measures

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.

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

Determine if your province or territory has any specific requirements or guidance related to work camps. Some provinces and territories have guidance documents for work camps.

Vaccination

  • Consider creating and implementing a COVID-19 vaccination policy within the limits of human rights.
  • Follow government vaccination requirements as applicable.
  • 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.
  • Continue to follow all workplace COVID-19 control measures and public health measures as required, even if all workers are fully vaccinated.
  • For additional information on vaccination, please refer to:

Communication and Training

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 be frequent enough to update workers on changes and to allow for feedback and concerns to be raised. Use posters or infographics where they can be easily noticed.

COVID-19 specific training for workers should include the following:

  • COVID-19 symptoms and how to respond when symptoms are identified.
  • What to do if sick, or 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.
  • Policies, plans, and procedures (such as mask policy, physical distance policy, vaccination policy, cleaning and disinfection schedule, etc.). Alert workers whenever changes are made.
  • Make sure workers understand how to protect themselves from the products they use (including cleaning products).
  • For additional information on communication and training, refer to:

Post signs where they can be seen by workers, such as:

Screening and Contact Tracing

  • Before permitting entry to the camp or worksite, request proof or attestation of vaccination as required by your local legislation or as guided by your vaccination policy. Make sure that the company policy does not conflict with applicable laws.
  • Implement a screening policy which outlines the type of screening each worksite requires: passive or active. Some jurisdictions may require active screening in response local pandemic conditions.
    • 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.
  • Passive screening applies throughout working hours, while active screening should be done before the start of a shift, before entering the camp, or before being allowed onto group transportation to the site.
  • A rapid testing program may help identify asymptomatic people.
  • Maintain a database of all workers, including their names and contact information, and keep track of their working days and hours. Also collect the contact information of any visitors to the camp, the date, and time. 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.
  • Workers that pass the screening can enter the camp or start their shift.
  • 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 or isolate if already on site. 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 in their jurisdiction.

COVID-19 Response Plan

  • 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. Refer to your jurisdiction for instructions on what must be included in the plan.
  • When any person experiences COVID-19 symptoms while already in the camp, 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. Have the worker either:
    • Leave as soon as it is safe for them to do so. If needed, have them isolate in a designated area, away from other workers, until they can leave, or
    • Isolate on site for a duration indicated by the local public health or government authority.
  • Call 911 for medical assistance if symptoms are life threatening. 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.
  • Adopt sick leave policies that are flexible and consider providing support to workers who are off sick (i.e., do not penalise workers that do not come to work when they feel sick). Keep in mind that workers may not be able to obtain a positive COVID-19 test to prove illness.
  • 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:

Ventilation

  • Ventilate indoor spaces appropriately (e.g., according to their size and occupancy level).
  • Open building windows and doors, if possible.
  • 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 upgrades to air filtration and disinfection).
  • 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. Improper humidity levels may cause the virus to stay suspended in the air longer.
  • For group transportation (e.g., shuttles to and from the job site), increase the amount of fresh air entering the vehicle by opening the windows (weather permitting) and setting the ventilation to outside air intake. Do not use the recirculated air option.
  • For additional information on indoor ventilation, refer to:

Physical Distancing

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:

  • Modify tasks to minimize close physical contact.
  • 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, lunch area, etc.). Signs can be used to clearly indicate occupancy limits.
  • For meals, consider:
    • Staggering mealtimes or increasing hours of availability when practical.
    • Removing/rearranging dining tables to maximize physical distancing.
    • Adapting other areas to serve as additional dining spaces.
    • Discontinuing buffet service (e.g., salad bars) and switching to prepackaged meals or meals served by staff.
    • Removing shared food/condiment/utensil stations and beverage dispensers.
    • Providing take-out meals so they can be consumed elsewhere.
    • Discouraging the sharing of food or unwashed plates, cups, or utensils.
    • Placing floor markings, signs, and other visual cues to indicate minimum required physical distancing.
    • Making sure that kitchen staff are following safe-food handling protocols.
  • For sleeping areas, consider providing single occupancy sleeping quarters or maximizing distance between beds with head to toe sleeping positions.
  • Avoid in-person gatherings such as social events. Meetings may be conducted remotely with video conferencing software.
  • Ensure physical distancing is maximized during group transportation (e.g., shuttle busses). This may require multiple vehicles, larger vehicles, or more trips with fewer employees.
  • Consider placing workers into cohorts (teams, crews). Cohorts will work together while physically distancing from other cohorts.
  • Only allow essential people on site (e.g., deliveries, repairs). Restrict the access of non-workers only to places they need to visit.
  • Allow exceptions to distancing guidance in certain circumstances such as rescuing a distressed person, providing first aid, or performing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).
  • For additional information on physical distancing, refer to:

Hygiene Measures

  • Encourage good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
  • Provide adequate handwashing stations or hand sanitizer dispensers (always with minimum 60% alcohol content) in areas that are accessible (entrances, exits, breakrooms, inside vehicles, etc.).
  • Encourage everyone to sanitize or wash their hands before:
    • The start of a shift.
    • Eating or drinking.
    • Putting on masks.
    • Leaving the work area.
  • And after:
    • Touching shared items.
    • Using the washroom.
    • Removing masks.
    • 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.
  • Periodically check and restock soap, sanitizer, paper towels, and any other products provided for good hygiene.
  • Reduce the number of shared objects. Avoid sharing tools and equipment if possible.
  • Clean and disinfect shared tools and equipment between users.
  • 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 everyone 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.

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 and follow a standard operating procedure for touch points. The schedule should identify when cleaning needs to be done and record when it has taken place.

Use an approved hard surface disinfectant, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions and Safety Data Sheet (SDS). Focus on:

  • Areas in which workers spend most of their time (e.g., dining areas, break areas, vehicles).
  • High-touch surfaces and objects such as:
    • Kitchens: countertops, sinks, faucets, stoves, light switches, cabinets, refrigerators, and freezers.
    • Dining areas: chairs, tables.
    • Washrooms and showers: door handles, counters, faucets, soap dispensers, door locks, toilet flushing mechanisms.
    • Vehicles: door handles, seats and arm rests, seatbelts, steering wheel, consoles, dashboard, keys.
    • Common areas: TV remotes, mice, keyboards).
  • Barriers.

After cleaning and disinfecting, consider:

  • Used cleaning cloths, towels etc. must be properly handled to prevent contamination, and laundered or disposed of after every use.
  • Deposit heavily contaminated or disposable items into plastic lined waste containers.
  • Dispose of garbage at least daily and follow up with hand hygiene.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • PPE includes such items as respirators, eye protection (e.g., goggles, face shield), gowns, gloves, and safety footwear.
  • 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).
    • Providing emergency first-aid.
  • Workers must be trained on how to properly use and care for their PPE.
  • For additional information on PPE, refer to:

Mask Wearing

  • 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 worn when there is more than one occupant in a vehicle and in common areas of the camp.
  • Masks should be well-constructed and well-fitting, covering the nose, mouth, and chin.
  • Encourage people not to touch their face or mask with unwashed hands.
  • 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 transparent windows.
  • Workers may also wish to use eye protection (such as safety glasses, goggles, or face shield) in addition to a mask when in close physical contact with others. Note that face shields do not offer equivalent respiratory protection as masks.
  • 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.
  • For additional information on masks, refer to:

Travel Safety

Work camps are often located in remote areas with workers travelling to the camps from different geographic locations. Below are some tips related to travel:

  • Temporary foreign workers entering Canada may be required to quarantine upon arrival. Travel requirements can change often due to the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. Refer to the Government of Canada website for the most up to date advice on who can enter Canada, quarantine requirements, and exemptions.
  • Some provinces or territories have specific quarantine requirements for inter-provincial or inter-territorial travel. Refer to the Government of Canada website, Provincial and Territorial Restrictions, and comply with any applicable quarantine requirements.
  • Provide workers instructions on how to travel safely (e.g., minimizing contact with members of the public, sanitizing hands after refueling, wearing a suitable mask, etc.).
  • Employees should continuously monitor themselves for COVID-19 related symptoms during travel.
  • Discourage non-essential travel.

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 April 28, 2022