This tip sheet is for employers and workers of work camps. Work camps are accommodations provided to workers who work in mining, logging, tree planting, construction, drilling, forest firefighting, resource exploration or similar industries. They are often located in remote areas. This tip sheet 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.
Due to the nature of remote work camps, communicable diseases can spread quickly. People in work camps are often in close contact with many others during work, meals, shift change, and leisure time. Remote work camps have fewer medical resources (e.g., trained personnel, supplies and equipment, etc.) to handle disease outbreaks than larger communities or operations.
Communicate to all workers and visitors that people who are sick (or may be sick) with COVID-19 should not travel to the work camp using the most effective methods (e.g., remote briefings, emails, etc.).
Take every precaution to avoid introducing COVID-19 into remote work camps (e.g., screening all individuals before they travel to the camp and requiring negative COVID-19 test results before travel).
Consider implementing a COVID-19 rapid testing program for camp occupants. Early detection of COVID-19 may prevent a COVID-19 outbreak from occurring.
Require everyone in the camp to continuously self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. If symptoms are reported, have the individual isolate according to the local public health or the camp authority’s isolation requirements. If possible, have them isolate in a private room with its own bathroom.
Monitor the health of people in remote work camps closely. Consider temporarily suspending work operations if multiple workers become ill within a short time and implement outbreak mitigation measures. Comply with the work camp disease outbreak reporting requirements of your local jurisdiction.
Implement measures that promote physical distancing and reduce indoor crowds:
Remind everyone to maximize the distance between themselves and others (e.g., during training sessions, meetings, at the worksite, at the work camp, etc.).
Stagger mealtimes and discourage sitting close together for meals.
Rearrange (or remove) furniture in common areas and changerooms to create more space.
Reduce the number of occupants in the camp, if possible.
Provide each person individual sleeping quarters, if possible. For communal sleeping areas arrange occupants head to toe and space them out as far as possible.
Discourage close contact interactions between camp occupants.
During a work camp COVID-19 outbreak:
Communicate outbreak specific protocols and procedures to all camp occupants and visitors.
Increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces and items.
Implement and enforce physical distancing requirements for all camp occupants.
Require mask wearing for everyone in the work camp unless they are eating or drinking.
Close common areas (e.g., game rooms and gyms) until the outbreak is over.
Consider pausing the addition of new people to the camp until the outbreak is over.
Keep all COVID-19 positive people isolated until they are no longer contagious. Quarantine any close contacts until it is certain that they did not become infected.
COVID-19 positive occupants’ linens and clothes should be sealed in a bag before being laundered. Linens and clothes should be kept sealed until they are carefully loaded into the washing machine and washed using the warmest appropriate temperature setting and detergent. Keep clean linens and clothes separate from soiled ones.
Transport any individuals who require advanced live-saving medical care to the nearest hospital, when required.
Restrict non-essential transfers of people between camps, if possible.
Install sanitizer dispensers in high-traffic areas (e.g., break rooms, common room entrances, gym entrances, etc.).
Consider limiting the use of equipment (e.g., computers, gear, flashlights, radios, mobile equipment, all-terrain vehicles, etc.) to one person, especially when it 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 techniques.
Meet or exceed the number of handwashing stations required by your local jurisdiction. Install them in the most convenient places. Instruct everyone to use them frequently.
Reduce the amount of paper documentation or other items being exchanged between people. Consider exchanging documents electronically. If this exchange cannot be avoided, wash or sanitize hands after handling items.
Remove magazines, newspapers, and other shared items from common areas.
Consider requiring all camp occupants to be vaccinated against COVID-19 (vaccinated people are less likely to have severe outcomes or require hospitalization if they become sick with COVID-19).
Consideration for transport vehicles:
Set vehicle ventilation to outside air and consider keeping windows open, if weather permits.
Maximize the distance between passengers (both inside and outside the vehicle) and transport fewer persons at a time, if possible.
Require masks for all passengers and drivers (not necessary if a vehicle has one occupant).
Clean and disinfect vehicles (e.g., busses, all-terrain vehicles, planes, etc.) used for worker transport after every trip. Focus on all high-touch surfaces (e.g., door handles, windows, seats, seatbelts, controls, etc.).
If a COVID-19 positive person is transported, thoroughly ventilate the vehicle (i.e., open all windows and doors), then clean and disinfect all vehicle surfaces and controls. Wear PPE (e.g., respirator, gloves, gown, face shield, etc.) for additional protection.
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.