This document is for directors, managers, education providers, administrators, and others who work in post-secondary institutions including universities, colleges, and institutes.
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.
Appropriate posters in classrooms, noticeboards, etc.
Do not allow people with symptoms of COVID-19 to enter the premises. Ask sick workers or students to isolate and leave the campus as soon as possible.
Provide online access to course materials, instructors, learning resources, meetings, administrative services, etc., where possible.
Consider offering exams online instead of in-person or having students complete assignments instead of examinations.
Allow time between users of indoor spaces (e.g., classrooms, labs, etc.) for ventilation, cleaning, and disinfecting.
Install transparent physical barriers between individuals, where practical (e.g., between serving staff and students in cafeterias, between office administrators and visitors, etc.).
Maximize physical distance between people in:
Consider using all available rooms for additional classroom space (e.g., libraries, gyms, etc.).
Consider having well-spaced outdoor tables and seating across campus for use during meals, instruction, meetings, etc.
Limit the number of individuals in indoor spaces (ideally with 2 metres between each person), as practical:
Students in classrooms, etc. (e.g., consider hybrid teaching with half students in-class and half remote, or remote classes)
Event spectators (e.g., sports, etc.)
Workers in offices
Consider cancelling or reducing the frequency of non-essential indoor activities such as:
Group lab assignments or projects
Group sports that require physical contact and involve heavy breathing. Consider promoting non-contact or limited-contact sports (e.g., curling, swimming, track and field, etc.)
Discourage gatherings or events on campus (e.g., parties, concerts, etc.).
If offering transportation, consider:
Cancelling trips if they are not essential
Staggering seating in vehicles
Opening vehicle windows if weather permits
Install hand sanitizer dispensers at strategic locations throughout buildings, especially where there is contact with high-touch surfaces or objects (e.g., main entrances, classrooms, gyms, labs, lockers, libraries, etc.).
Restrict the sharing of hardcopy documents (e.g., handouts, books, etc.). Use electronic alternatives, if possible (e.g., distribute PDF handouts, use electronic books, provide documents using online class portals, etc.).
For musical programs, do not allow students to share musical instruments such as woodwind and brass (i.e., any instrument that is played by blowing air into it), or microphones. Avoid having individuals face each other when forceful breathing may occur (e.g., live performances, etc.).
Remove access to or disable drinking fountains.
In cafeterias, provide pre-wrapped or packaged food or have cafeteria workers serve the food, utensils, and condiments.
Consider installing vending machines with contactless payment options.
Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces and objects frequently (e.g., shared computer keyboards and mice, microscopes, beakers, measuring cylinders, etc.).
Consider recommending mask wearing in high-risk spaces (e.g., crowded classrooms, study rooms, during close contact practical learning, etc.) and when the risk of COVID-19 transmission is high (e.g., if there is an outbreak or new variant of concern). Be tolerant of individuals who choose to wear a mask even when one is not required.
All service providers (e.g., construction, catering, transportation, etc.) should have suitable, adequately communicated COVID-19 control measures and response plan.
Consider how COVID-19 control measures apply to interprovincial and international students (e.g., requirements for isolation or quarantine after travel, vaccination, etc.). Be prepared for:
Discrimination based on race or country of origin
Travel restrictions that could prevent individuals from arriving or returning home
Encourage all students and workers to:
Maximize physical distance from others as much as possible.
Avoid unnecessary heavy breathing (e.g., shouting, cheering, etc.) or physical contact (e.g., high fives, hugging, kissing, etc.).
Wash or sanitize hands after contact with high-touch surfaces and objects.
Wear a comfortable, well-fitting and well-constructed mask of the highest available quality, covering the nose, mouth, and chin, in crowded areas, especially when indoors (e.g., classrooms, sports with heavy breathing and physical contact, working in groups, etc.).
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.
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.