This tip sheet is for employers and workers who work in airports or on airplanes including aircraft crews, baggage handlers, aircraft refuellers, mechanics, check-in agents, airport security, customs and duty officers, custodians, retailers, etc. It provides an overview of potential hazards and risks due to COVID-19 and guidance regarding control measures.
This tip sheet will not address Transport Canada travel restrictions. For those details refer to:
COVID-19 is a contagious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Infected individuals can spread the virus through respiratory particles when they cough, sneeze, breathe, etc. People can become infected when they inhale particles that contain the virus or by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their face with unwashed hands.
Specific Tips for Airlines, Ground Crews and Airport Operators
Communicate (e.g., using posters, by email, or verbally) to all workers that people who are sick (or may be sick) with COVID-19 should not report to work.
Require all workers to continuously self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. If symptoms are reported, ask the worker to isolate according to their local public health authority or workplace isolation requirements, if applicable.
If local COVID-19 transmission rates are high, consider actively screening workers at workplace entrances.
Workers that do not pass the screening should not be allowed to access the workplace or work with others in person. They should inform their supervisor and follow the isolation requirements in their jurisdiction, if applicable. Consider offering sick leave for COVID-19 related illness and do not penalize workers who must miss work to isolate, quarantine, or recover.
Consider having work cohorts (groups of workers that have the same work schedule, work in the same areas, and have breaks at the same times). Keep cohorts separate as much as possible.
Consider installing barriers at counters where workers will interact with many travellers (e.g., ticket counters, baggage check-in, boarding gates, help desks, service counters, etc.).
Remind workers to maximize the distance between themselves and others (e.g., when interacting with travellers, during training sessions, when working with other workers, in hangers, offices, control centres, departures, arrivals, baggage claim and queuing areas, etc.).
Evaluate job tasks and modify as many as possible to be single person tasks (if safe to do so).
Consider limiting the use of equipment (e.g., computers, tools, radios, etc.) to one worker, especially when the equipment is difficult to clean and disinfect. If equipment must be shared, clean and disinfect it between users. Make sure workers are trained on proper cleaning and disinfecting techniques.
Reduce the amount of paper documentation or other items being exchanged between workers and others. Consider exchanging documents electronically. If this exchange cannot be avoided, wash or sanitize hands after handling items.
Make sure cabin air circulation and filtration systems are operating and maintained properly.
Consider boarding aircraft in small groups and requiring travellers to deplane one row at a time.
Managing mid-flight illnesses:
Make sure crew members are trained on how to attend to ill persons.
Separate the ill person from others, if possible and appropriate relocate them (and any companions) to a more isolated part of the cabin.
Minimize contact between ill individuals and others.
Make sure the ill person is properly wearing a mask, preferably a respirator or medical mask. If mask wearing is not possible, instruct them to cough or sneeze into their elbow or facial tissue.
Keep ill individuals seated as much as possible.
Assign only one cabin crew member to attend to the ill person, if possible.
Have crew members clean and disinfect lavatories each time they are used by ill individuals.
After the flight, clean and disinfect all surfaces touched by or close to the ill person. Communicate to cleaning personnel all of the specific contaminated areas.
Consider using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter vacuum cleaners for airplane seats and interior surfaces.
Implement cleaning and disinfection protocols for all aircraft and vehicles. Consider applying long lasting disinfectant to aircraft interiors (e.g., by fogging or misting). Provide cleaning crews additional time to clean and disinfect all potentially contaminated surfaces such as seat trays, storage compartments, and lavatories.
Encourage travellers to dispose of their own waste at the end of each flight.
Make sure that aircraft have the required personal protective equipment and supplies on board as recommended by public health and regulatory authorities.
Consider suspending certain services (such as providing pillows and blankets) if this service increases the risk of exposure to workers.
Increase audio and visual communications about safe behaviours and current airport health safety protocols.
If required, support traveller COVID-19 testing (e.g., provide space for testing stations).
Train workers to wash their hands after handling luggage. Make sure hand washing facilities or hand sanitizer are available, well stocked, and easily accessible.
Promote the use of self check-in and electronic boarding pass options to reduce touchpoints between workers and travellers.
Consider using touchless methods of elevators operation.
For services and retail stores inside the airport:
Remove access to self-serve items (e.g., condiments, utensils, and napkins). Provide them upon request.
Consider placing water fountains out of service and promote the use of bottle refill stations.
Install disinfecting wipes at baggage cart stations.
Promote contactless methods of payment (e.g., tap payments with debit or credit cards) instead of cash. Clean and disinfect payment pads and touch screens frequently.
If cash is handled, have workers wash or sanitize their hands frequently and before touching their face or eating.
Require that equipment such as radios, vehicles, or PPE be disinfected between users.
Provide each ground crew worker their own vehicle, if possible.
Lower group transport occupancy to allow for physical distancing and clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces after each trip. Maximize fresh air inside the vehicle by opening windows (weather permitting) or by setting ventilation systems to outdoor air intake.
Consider cleaning and disinfecting all high-touch surfaces and objects such as luggage and carts, security scanning equipment and bins, railings, elevator, waste receptacles, washroom fixtures and surfaces, etc. If possible and safe, apply long lasting disinfectant to high-touch surfaces.
The risk of COVID-19 transmission is increased when individuals are exposed to several risks at once, such as:
When person-to-person interactions are longer and more frequent.
In crowded spaces, especially when people cough, sneeze, or exhale forcefully.
In poorly ventilated spaces with other people.
When people have inadequate hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, or do not have access to cleaning facilities and products.
When shared surfaces and objects are touched frequently.
When community COVID-19 hospitalizations or cases are high or increasing.
When sick individuals are allowed to stay in the workplace.
When individuals are exposed to several risks at once.
When other risks are high and workplace health measures are relaxed (e.g., dropping indoor mask wearing requirements, requiring all workers to return to the workplace, etc.).
Consider all possible COVID-19 exposure scenarios in your setting and perform COVID-19 risk assessments. Develop or use an existing risk assessment form to document and evaluate all work setting characteristics, activities, and job roles. It is good practice to review your assessment on a regular basis to make sure your control methods are effective.
Sample questions to ask during a COVID-19 risk assessment:
Are indoor spaces properly ventilated?
Where do individuals 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?
What are the high-touch surfaces and shared objects?
Do individuals normally participate in activities that create respiratory droplets (e.g., singing, shouting, etc.).
Are people expected to stay in an enclosed space for an extended duration?
Meet your legal occupational health and safety obligations by doing everything reasonably possible in the circumstances to protect the workers and ensure the health and safety the workplace.
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 hazards or negatively impact existing safety controls. Review and adjust measures as necessary in consultation with the health and safety committee or representative.
Create and implement a written workplace COVID-19 safety plan supported by the risk assessment. 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, particularly those who are at high risk of severe disease or outcomes (i.e., immunocompromised, have chronic medical conditions, or are older) from a COVID-19 infection.
Communication and Training
Communicate new and updated workplace controls and applicable public health measures to all workers in languages they understand. Specific training requirements and recommendations may vary depending on your jurisdiction. Allow workers the opportunity to ask questions and share concerns. Respond to questions and provide feedback within a reasonable time.
Train workers on COVID-19 specific topics such as:
Screening: keeping individuals who may be infected with COVID-19 out of the workplace.
Contact tracing: identifying and notifying people exposed to the virus and offering advice.
Screen individuals who enter the workplace, if required by your local jurisdiction. Consider having a screening program even when it is not required as an additional measure to protect your workers.
Determine which type of screening your worksite requires: passive or active.
Passive screening requires individuals to self-monitor and self-report possible illness or exposure to COVID-19.
Active screening requires individuals to respond to questions about signs or symptoms of infection, recent possible
COVID-19 exposures, or recent travel outside of Canada.
Allow individuals that pass the screening to access the workplace. Deny access to anyone who does not pass the screening.
Have workers who do not pass the screening contact their supervisor. The supervisor should instruct them to return (or stay) home and follow local public health guidance which may include isolation, testing for COVID-19, or contacting their healthcare provider or public health authority.
Determine if you are required to implement contact tracing. If so, maintain a list of all individuals (for which contact tracing applies) entering the workplace, including their names, contact information, and time spent in the workplace. 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.
For additional information on screening and contact tracing, refer to:
Ventilate indoor spaces appropriately according to the number of occupants and types of activities.
Open windows and doors to the outside, if possible.
Maintain ventilation systems and seek advice from a ventilation specialist 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 ventilation systems continuously or for two hours before and after buildings are occupied.
Run local 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 using portable air filtration units with high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filters.
Keep indoor humidity between 30% and 50%.
For additional information on indoor ventilation, refer to:
PPE includes such items as respirators, medical masks, eye protection, gloves, and safety footwear.
Eye protection (safety glasses, goggles, or face shields) may be worn in addition to a mask when in close physical contact with others. Note: face shields do not provide respiratory protection and cannot replace masks.
COVID-19 PPE policies must not interfere when a higher level of protection is needed for a task.
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 jurisdiction. If not required, mask wearing should be encouraged as an additional measure when there is a 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.
Consider using masks with a transparent window when communicating with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Masks should not be worn by anyone who is unable to remove it without assistance (e.g., due to their age, ability, or developmental status).
Allow workers to wear masks, even if not required, based on their discretion (e.g., being at risk of more severe disease, working in crowded setting, etc.).
Immediately have them wear a mask (preferably a respirator or medical mask, or if neither is available, a well-constructed and well-fitting non-medical mask). A respirator used in this way (i.e., as source control) may not need to be fit tested.
Have them leave as soon as possible.
If they cannot immediately leave, 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.
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.
Consider updating your sick leave policy to provide support to workers who are or may be sick. Support may include paid or unpaid sick leave, long-term disability, and information on government programs, 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.
For further information on respiratory infectious diseases, including COVID-19, refer to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Disclaimer: As public and occupational health and safety information may continue to change, 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.