This tip sheet is for employers and employees who are working or staying at work camps. It provides an overview of recommended controls to help reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Additional controls will 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.
The risk of contracting COVID-19 increases in situations where people are in closed spaces (with poor ventilation) and crowded places when with people from outside their immediate household. Risk is higher in settings where these factors overlap and/or involve activities such as close-range conversations, singing, shouting or heavy breathing (e.g., during exertion).
At work camps, potential sources of exposure include:
having close contact with a person (e.g., co-worker) who has COVID-19;
touching surfaces or items that have been touched or handled by a person with COVID-19, and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
Each work camp is unique. Employers need to assess the risks of COVID-19 for their specific camp and the activities conducted by employees (such as travelling, obtaining supplies, eating meals, and daily interactions).
The employer must then implement appropriate hazard controls using the hierarchy of controls (i.e., elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative policies, and the use of personal protective equipment). Use multiple personal preventive practices in a layered approach.
Consider implementing a written safety plan that identifies potential exposures to COVID-19 and the controls used to protect employees. It should also include a rapid response plan to ensure readiness in case anyone starts to display COVID-19 related symptoms, or in case anyone tests positive for COVID-19.
Employers should consider the following:
How will employees travel to camp? Provide employees with information about how to travel safely and ask employees to prepare a travel safety plan.
How will employees be screened? It is recommended that all employees are screened when they first arrive at camp and then daily thereafter.
What precautions will be implemented at the work camp? Assess the risk of COVID-19 transmission for all locations (e.g., kitchen, dining areas, washrooms, showers, sleeping quarters).
How will shared surfaces be cleaned and disinfected? Make sure that all supplies are available, and that the disinfectant used has a drug identification number (DIN) from Health Canada.
Are employees grouped into cohorts? Consider placing employees in “cohorts” or “crews” that eat together, travel together, stay together in the same bunk house (if applicable), and are physically distant from other crews.
What tasks are conducted at the work camp? Assess the risk of COVID-19 exposure for all activities conducted at the camp.
Where will employees be taking their breaks and eating meals? Ensure that physical distancing measures are in place.
Encourage employees to get the vaccine once available in your jurisdiction.
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.
Employers should provide employees with instructions on how to travel safely (e.g., minimizing contact with members of the public, disinfecting hands after refueling, wearing a mask).
Ask employees to create and submit a travel safety plan that outlines their method of transportation, stops that will be taken, and precautions that will be followed.
Ask employees to monitor themselves for COVID-19 related symptoms and complete a daily health log for 14 days before arriving at camp.
Encourage employees to minimize contact with people from outside their immediate household for 14 days before arriving at camp.
Employees should continuously monitor themselves for COVID-19 related symptoms during travel.
Ask employees to create an exit travel plan that outlines how they plan to safely return home at the end of the season (or if leaving early).
Consider asking screening questions to employees when they arrive at camp, and then daily using a checklist from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) or your local public health authority.
Some jurisdictions require active screening of employees every day before work. Active screening steps may involve a self-assessment (e.g., using a web-based tool, having a person complete a questionnaire, or having a designated person asking direct questions). Consider the size of your workforce, the number of worksites, shifts, and activities when choosing your screening method.
If any employee starts to display COVID-related symptoms:
They should wear a mask (preferably a respirator or medical mask, if not available a well-constructed and well fitting non-medical mask) and be isolated from the rest of the employees.
Employers need to provide a space for the person to isolate (e.g., a room or a tent with a separate entrance) and a separate washroom and shower that is only used by that person. This space should be away from the main shared areas of the camp, if possible.
Contact a health care provider and local public health authority for further guidance.
Deliver meals, in disposable serving dishes, to the outside of the room where the person is isolating.
To support contact tracing efforts, record the names and contact information of all employees and other persons who enter the work camp. Make sure that privacy is protected, and that the information is stored securely. Contact information must be destroyed in a timely manner according to privacy requirements.
Rapid testing can be used as part of your active screening process to protect workers. While they are not as sensitive as laboratory (polymerase chain reaction (PCR)) tests, rapid tests can be useful in detecting people infected with COVID-19, including those who are asymptomatic.
Depending on the size and location of the work camp, employers may wish to consider the use of rapid COVID-19 testing for new employees arriving at camp to help prevent the introduction of the virus.
Communication and training should be easy to understand, and available in both English and the language best suited for the employee, if possible.
Provide regular communications so that employees are informed of updates and have an opportunity to discuss their questions and concerns.
Encourage employees to report any concerns about COVID-19 to their supervisor or employer. Employees can also report concerns to their health and safety committee or representative.
Provide employees with a “call list” indicating who to call if symptoms develop, if an emergency occurs, or if there are any other urgent needs.
Post signs throughout the workplace as a reminder about the precautions to follow (e.g., hand hygiene, physical distancing).
Provide mental health support resources for all employees.
Reducing Potential Exposure
Determine if your province or territory has any specific requirements related to work camps. For example, British Columbia has implemented specific orders related to COVID-19 infection prevention at industrial or work camps.
Some provinces and territories (e.g., Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon) have guidance documents for work camps. Review any available guidance material for your jurisdiction.
Consider reducing the number of people staying at the camp (i.e., reducing occupancy).
Determine if it is possible to reduce employee turnover at camp, such as lengthening the changeover cycle.
Consider having an infection prevention coordinator for the camp to oversee the implementation of health and safety requirements related to COVID-19. Depending on the size of the camp, also consider having health care practitioners on staff.
All camps should have infection control supplies available on site.
Avoid in-person gatherings such as social events.
For meetings, try to use remote communications methods (e.g., teleconferencing, videoconferencing). When in-person meetings are required, use a large well-ventilated space, stay the greatest physical distance (at least 2 meters) apart from co-workers, and wear masks.
Discourage unnecessary physical contact such as handshakes.
Eliminate non-essential work travel.
Do not share personal items such as communication devices, cigarettes, clothing, grooming products, or towels.
Restrict visitors to only those required for essential reasons (e.g., deliveries, repairs). Visitors should not have access to the physical infrastructure of the camp (e.g., kitchen, shower facilities, sleeping areas) unless necessary.
Have employees stay at camps, as much as possible, during their days off, and avoid visiting the local community. Visits to the local community should only be for essential reasons only (e.g., work-related reasons, medical emergencies, and critical appointments). Employers should:
Arrange for all supplies to be delivered, if possible, to the camp.
Implement a “town order” method for buying goods for employees and designate a shopper for the camp.
Ask employees to try and pack any essentials (e.g., toiletries, medications) that they will need for the season.
Have a relationship with a laundromat in the local community (if laundry facilities are not provided at camp) and assign a specific person to bring the camp’s laundry to town. Dirty laundry should be placed into a laundry bag with a plastic liner and should not be shaken.
Encourage employees to rest, eat a balanced diet, and stay in contact with friends and family through phone calls, social media, texts, or e-mail.
Employers should consider providing cell boosters, charging stations and Wi-Fi, when possible, to allow employees to communicate with friends and family.
Keep the greatest physical distance possible (at least 2 metres) from people outside your immediate household.
For meals, consider:
Staggering mealtimes or increase hours of availability when practical.
Removing/rearranging dining tables to maintain 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 meals can be taken to other areas for consumption.
Encouraging everyone not to share food or unwashed plates, cups, or utensils.
Placing tape or other markings on floors to maintain physical distancing.
Making sure that kitchen staff are following safe-food handling protocols.
For sleeping areas, consider:
Providing private sleeping quarters (e.g., single rooms in permanent camps or single occupancy tents).
For shared sleeping quarters (e.g., bunkrooms), where possible, arrange beds so that they are at least 2 metres apart and the sleeping position is head to toe. Consider using temporary barriers between beds (e.g., plastic curtains) that can be easily cleaned and disinfected.
Post capacity signs at the entrances to shared employee areas (e.g., dining or recreation areas).
Verify that the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system(s) for any camp buildings are working properly.
Ensure preventative maintenance for HVAC system(s) is conducted according to manufacturer's instructions (e.g., regular filter changes and inspection of critical components).
In consultation with a HVAC specialist, determine if it is possible to make any enhancements to the HVAC system. For example:
Using as much outside air as permitted by the HVAC system
Increasing the filter efficiency of HVAC units, within system capabilities
For additional information on indoor ventilation, please refer to:
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.
Encourage frequent and proper hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
Provide adequate handwashing stations in areas that are accessible. Ensure all employees know where the facilities are located. Refer to local health and safety regulations about the minimum number of handwashing stations that are required at temporary or remote workplaces. Consider adding additional wash stations due to COVID-19.
Provide employees with hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Wash hands at the start of shift, before eating or drinking, after touching shared items, after using the washroom, after removing masks, after cleaning and disinfecting objects and before leaving work areas.
Discourage individuals from touching their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands and from touching the outer surface of their mask while wearing or handling it, as it may be contaminated. Promote hand washing or use of hand sanitizer after putting on, touching, or removing masks.
Promote good respiratory hygiene. Provide disposable tissues and remind individuals to cough or sneeze into the bend of their arm or a tissue, and to dispose of tissues immediately, followed up with hand washing or use of hand sanitizer. Verify that all necessary materials are readily available in the workplace (e.g., hand sanitizer, garbage disposal, disposable tissues).
Cleaning and Disinfecting
Viruses can remain on objects for a few hours to days depending on the type of surface and environmental conditions.
To promote consistent disinfecting practices, create and provide a routine cleaning and disinfecting procedure, schedule and checklist.
Clean and disinfect all high contact surfaces. For example:
Kitchen areas (e.g., countertops, sinks, faucets, ranges, light switches, cabinets, refrigerators, and freezers)
Dining areas (e.g., chairs, tables)
Washroom surfaces (e.g., door handles, counters, faucets, soap dispensers, door locks)
Vehicles (inside and outside door handles, seats and arm rests, seatbelts, steering wheel, consoles, dashboard, and windows)
Common areas (e.g., TV remotes, computer monitors, keyboards)
Use household or commercial disinfectants to destroy or inactivate viruses and bacteria. The disinfectant used should have a drug identification number (DIN), meaning that it has been approved for use in Canada.
Employees should be trained on the safe use of the cleaning and disinfecting products. 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 (e.g., use of personal protective equipment).
Provide employees with adequate supplies and access to any required personal protective equipment.
Employers should develop policies about mask use.
It is strongly recommended that employees wear a well-fitted and well-constructed mask whenever they are in a shared space (indoors or outdoors) with people from outside of their immediate household.
Ensure the requirements for mask use set by your local public health authority are followed.
Masks should be worn in all common areas at the camp. At meals, keep masks on as much as possible, and only take it off when eating and drinking.
Employers may consider creating cohorts of employees (teams, crews).
Cohorts should operate as a unit, and work, travel, eat and stay together at the same work camp (if applicable).
Each cohort should stay physically distant from other cohorts and should not socialize with other cohorts.
The use of cohorts helps reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and helps with contact tracing if a positive COVID-19 case is found in the workplace.
Employers who provide group transportation (e.g., shuttles from camp to/from the job site) need to implement additional precautions. Below are some tips:
Assess the number of employees being transported at any given time and employ measures to ensure physical distancing between employees is maintained. This distancing may require using multiple vehicles, larger vehicles, or taking multiple trips with fewer employees.
Everyone should be screened for COVID-19 related symptoms before being transported to the worksite.
All drivers and passengers should wear masks while riding in a group transport vehicle.
Passengers should be spaced apart as much as possible, such as assigned seating with one person per row in a staggered pattern.
Consider isolating the driver’s area from the passenger compartment with a physical plexiglass barrier. Make sure the barrier does not create a safety hazard, such as reducing the driver’s visibility, hindering access to controls, or slowing emergency exit of the vehicle.
Ensure that physical distancing is used where people gather to board vehicles.
Allow for enough time for everyone to disembark the vehicle in a manner that allows for adequate physical distancing and prevents crowding.
Employers should ensure that high-contact surfaces (e.g., door handles) within the vehicle are cleaned at the start of each day and throughout the day. See “Cleaning and Disinfection” section (above) for additional details.
Determine if your jurisdiction has any requirements or guidelines about the number of employees permitted in a commuting vehicle at a time.
See “Ventilation” section (above) about increasing the amount of fresh air in vehicles.
COVID Alert App
Consider installing the COVID Alert App on your phone. This app is designed to let Canadians know whether they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
The app maintains your privacy; it does not record or share your geographic location.
Regularly review the adequacy of the controls implemented and make improvements as necessary.
Determine if there are any new hazards created by any of the changes implemented at the workplace. For example, if employees staying at camps cannot go into town on days off, what can be done at camp to promote employee wellness? Review and adjust programs as necessary.
It is important that mental health resources and support are provided to all workers, including access to an employee assistance program, if available.
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.