This tip sheet is for employers and workers in cruise ship operations. It provides an overview of potential hazards and risks due to COVID-19 and guidance regarding control measures.
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.
Methods for confirming the vaccination status of crew and passengers before boarding, where and when necessary.
Methods for verifying COVID-19 test results before boarding.
Measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 onboard and while at a port of call (e.g., hand and respiratory hygiene, physical distancing and cohorts, etc.).
The requirement to have the authorized representative maintain records on crew and passengers such as number of individuals onboard, vaccination status, number who test positive for COVID-19, etc.
Consider requiring pre-boarding screening for crew and passengers:
Do not allow anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 within 72 hours of boarding or is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to board, unless they can prove the symptoms are not caused by COVID-19. For longer trips, consider requiring passengers to be tested for COVID-19 midway through.
Consider increasing the onboard medical capabilities:
Purchase medical equipment and supplies for onboard infirmary.
Hire additional medical staff.
Arrange for onshore medical support.
Maintain or improve telehealth capabilities of ships.
Provide mental health support and increase the number of mental health first aid providers.
Train medical workers on:
COVID-19 sample collection procedures.
The use of all medical equipment.
The handling and disposal of biohazardous waste.
The maintenance of surveillance logs for respiratory illnesses and other records pertaining to COVID-19 testing, quarantine, isolation, and contact tracing.
Install clear physical barriers wherever crew members are expecting to have frequent, close face-to-face interactions with passengers (e.g., information counters, embarkation areas, etc.).
Implement measures that promote physical distancing and reduce indoor crowds:
Remind workers to maximize the distance between themselves and others (e.g., when interacting with passengers, during training sessions, when working with other workers, etc.).
Encourage the pre-booking of activities to avoid queues.
Stagger boarding times to prevent crowding in embarkment areas.
Actively manage all queues to maintain physical distancing of all passengers.
Implement contactless check-in processes, if possible.
Stagger worker meal and break times.
Rearrange (or remove) furniture in meeting rooms, activity rooms, ballrooms, theaters, casinos, and similar spaces to create more space.
Evaluate job tasks and modify as many as possible to be single person tasks (if safe to do so).
Post signs encouraging passengers (or groups) to keep physical distance from others while indoors.
Add additional outdoor seating, eating, and resting areas.
Have dedicated entrances and exits for indoor areas (i.e., avoid bottlenecks).
Adjust ship capacity in response pandemic trends or sail orders. For example, lower cruise ship capacity (e.g., 75% of maximum capacity).
Determine if any ship amenities should be closed or require limited occupancy such as bars, gyms, pools, casinos, cafeterias, restaurants, theaters, public washrooms, attractions, etc. Consult public health experts, if necessary.
Provide single-occupancy cabins with private bathrooms to all crew members, if possible.
Provide hand sanitizer (with minimum 60% alcohol content) and mask dispensers in high traffic areas (e.g., embarkation areas, service counters, at entrances to communal spaces). Keep them well stocked.
Modify meal services to facilitate physical distancing (e.g., reconfigure seating in dining rooms, stagger mealtimes, offer and encourage in-cabin meals).
Eliminate buffet style self-serve options (e.g., salad or dessert bars).
When leaving the ship, strongly recommend crew members and passengers take precautions to reduce their chance of exposure to COVID-19 (e.g., wearing a mask, physical distancing, frequent hand hygiene).
Remove magazines, newspapers, and other shared items from common areas (e.g., break rooms, meeting rooms, lobbies, seating areas, etc.).
Consider limiting the use of equipment (e.g., computers, tools, personal protective equipment (PPE), rescue equipment, clipboards, etc.) to one worker, especially when it is difficult to clean and disinfect. Make sure workers clean and disinfect all shared equipment between users and 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.
Implement flexible cancellation policies to allow passengers to reschedule travel plans without penalty if they become sick, have been determined to be close contacts, or have knowingly been exposed before embarkment.
Consider implementing onboard COVID-19 testing for rapid confirmation of suspected COVID-19 cases.
Consider having a vessel-specific COVID-19 response (or outbreak) plan, which should include:
Methods for caring for serious COVID-19 cases.
Requirements to keep adequate medical and cleaning supplies such as COVID-19 test kits, PPE, thermometers, medications, bleach, disinfectant, paper towels, etc.
Requirements for all symptomatic people and all close contacts to immediately put on a respirator (or if not available, a well- fitting medical mask), wash or sanitize their hands, and isolate or quarantine in their cabins (mask may be removed while in isolation or quarantine). If possible, they should stay in a separate space from asymptomatic close contacts.
Processes to test all symptomatic people and close contacts for COVID-19.
Reporting requirements for positive COVID-19 test results (e.g., to, Public Health Agency of Canada, Transport Canada, local public health and port authorities). Note that reporting of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases is mandatory under the Quarantine Act.
Disembarkment procedures for people who are ill with COVID-19.
Programs for drills and exercises to prepare for outbreaks.
Consider creating isolation and quarantine procedures:
Make sure crew and passengers understand how to isolate or quarantine from others.
Instruct people in isolation or quarantine to have no direct contact with others except for designated medical staff.
If possible, provide single occupancy cabins with private bathrooms for symptomatic workers in isolation. Passengers should isolate in their cabins.
Close contacts should quarantine in their cabins and monitor their symptoms.
Clean and disinfect all cabins that were occupied by people in isolation or quarantine after they are vacated.
Provide meals for those in isolation or quarantine in disposable packaging with single-use dining ware and cutlery. Delivery should be contactless.
Bag and seal all waste from isolation cabins. Handle waste carefully while in transit to the waste handling facility.
Individuals in isolation or quarantine should place soiled laundry outside the cabin at designated times for transport to the laundry facility. If possible, laundry should be bagged in water-soluble laundry bags (to avoid the potential exposure of laundry staff to coronavirus).
Consider having a plan for the repatriation of persons who become sick with COVID-19.
Consider the Risks
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.