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As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, some employers are preparing for return of a limited number of workers to the workplace. People returning will be joining those who continued to do their jobs (such as outdoor workers and those in retail/grocery, shipping, and transportation). With the added concern of children returning to school and an increase in the number of recorded cases of COVID-19, it’s critical that everyone do their part to prevent the spread at home, at work and in the community.
Everyone has a role in controlling the spread
There are steps you can take to protect yourself, your coworkers, and your community. Care starts with checking yourself daily for symptoms of COVID-19. Common symptoms include new or a new cough or one that becomes worse, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fever, and chills. If you have them, stay home.
Even if you don’t have symptoms, limit the amount of contact you have with people outside of your immediate family or bubble. Every contact with a person outside your household or bubble increases your risk, so it’s important to be aware of possible exposures. You can download the free COVID-19 Alert app to help notify you of any exposures so you know if you should get tested. You can also confidentially report your case, which helps to track the pandemic and reduce the spread by identifying infected regions.
What employers can do
While the internal responsibility system places roles on all workplace parties, ultimately employers are responsible for ensuring their workers are safe at work. This duty starts with developing a flexible attendance policy that allows workers to stay home if they are sick or need to stay home to care for a sick family member. Supporting this policy means actively encouraging sick workers to stay home if they have symptoms of COVID-19, even if they’re mild. You can use a screening questionnaire to help determine the presence of symptoms. Ask workers to report if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19, so you can take steps to protect others.
A screening checklist includes asking whether a worker or anyone in their household has travelled outside of Canada within the past 14 days, and if so, they are not permitted to enter the workplace. Also included are questions about the presence of symptoms. The checklist can be used in person or over the phone to determine if a worker is fit for work or should stay at home.
Encourage workers to clean and disinfect their personal work environments more often, and provide the means to do so (e.g., disinfecting wipes). Post signs to remind workers and clients to follow safe practices. In areas where physical distancing is not possible, set up physical barriers such as plexiglass windows.
Provide more access to hand hygiene facilities and make sure that persons with disabilities or other accommodation needs can access them.
Involve your health and safety committee or a representative when assessing workplace risks.
What workers can do
Stay informed, be prepared, and follow public health advice. This means getting your COVID-19 information from reliable and credible sources such as the Public Health Agency of Canada or your local public health authority.
Practicing good hygiene remains vital to reducing the spread. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, and cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm or a tissue. Clean and disinfect frequently touched or shared surfaces and objects often.
When you’re out, keep a physical distance of 2 metres from others. Wear a non-medical mask or face covering when you cannot consistently keep 2 metres away from others, especially in crowded settings.
If you notice symptoms, you’re feeling sick, or you’ve been in contact with someone who may have COVID-19, stay at home and away from others. Contact your health care provider or local public health authority and follow their advice. If you are working and become sick, you need to isolate yourself from others and tell your supervisor that you are going home. If possible, avoid taking public transit.
COVID-19 has created many challenges for workplaces and as the pandemic continues to evolve during fall and beyond, there are choices we can make and actions we can take to reduce the risks. By staying flexible and informed, we can all play a role to slow the spread.
Tips & Tools
Guardrails are used to protect workers from falls that can lead to injury or death. Different from handrails, which serve as a handhold people use to support themselves while using up or down stairs, ramps, or crossing flat surfaces, guardrails are designed to prevent falls over an unprotected edge or into an opening. Guardrails act as a visible and physical barrier to help prevent falls from heights or between levels including falls from roofs, balconies, stairwells or falls into open holes. They are a preferred means of protecting workers because they do not involve training and they may eliminate the need for workers to wear fall protection.
First, determine the type of guardrail you will need. There are two types of guardrails: job built guardrails, and manufactured guardrail systems. Job built guardrails are typically made of wood, while manufactured guardrail systems are available in a variety of materials and may have parts made of mesh, netting or fencing.
Keeping workers safe at the site
Here are questions that should be answered when constructing and installing your guardrail:
Considerations when building a guardrail
Make sure workers in the area near the unguarded edge are protected from falls by other means (travel restraint, fall arrest, netting, etc.) until the guardrail is completely installed.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has created shifts in workplace processes and procedures, the need for safe and reliable shipping has proven to be critical. This is essential to keep our country – and its workers – healthy and connected.
As part of its efforts to prioritize safe and secure transportation of dangerous goods (TDG), Transport Canada has introduced the Regulatory Sandbox: a pilot project to help evaluate the efficiency and safety of electronic shipping documents. This project aims to identify how and if digitizing these documents can reach a level of safety that is equivalent to, or better, than using paper. It will include assessments from air, water (marine), rail, and road transportation modes in both rural and urban settings.
As seen in other industries, reducing personal interactions and exchanges of physical goods like paper can help reduce the spread of viruses, including COVID-19. Through the Regulatory Sandbox pilot project, Transport Canada will continue to advance and adapt its safety measures through new and temporary approaches, like testing digital shipping documents. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2022, and the benefits, costs and performance will be shared in a published report.
Are you a first responder? Here’s how you may benefit from going digital.
Digital documents can be especially convenient in emergency situations where physical copies of mandatory shipping documents may be lost, destroyed, or inaccessible to the responder. This can cause a delay in the emergency response. By having a digital copy, first responders have access to the documents they need whenever the situation calls for it.
In addition to increasing safety measures and reducing emergency response times, electronic shipping documents:
If you’re a first responder, or an employee, trainer, or small business owner who handles dangerous goods, tell us how electronic shipping documents might impact your work. Find out how to take part here.
Keeping up with safety data sheets can be challenging in normal times, let alone in an emergency. To help workplaces manage their data sheets in an efficient and WHMIS-compliant way, CCOHS developed the CANManage online management service.
This system does all the work to make sure an organization’s data sheet collection is accessible, current and complete. It pulls all safety data sheets into one central location to help organizations meet compliance requirements. CANManage offers access to an online support centre which includes user guides, how-to documents, FAQs, and links to WHMIS 2015 resources.
Managing and accessing safety data sheets in the workplace is not always easy. In the case of an emergency, it’s crucial to ensure WHMIS compliance and to have all important information accessible in order to protect workers.
CANManage builds the online collections from the ground up to support all SDS needs. The service is prompt, personal and includes a dedicated account manager.
For more information, visit: CANManage
Occupational health and safety laws are always evolving. This month, we highlight amendments that have been made to provincial legislation in Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario, plus a link to updated re-opening requirements related to COVID-19.
Regulations under the Quebec Occupational Health and Safety Act have been amended to change terminology. “Compressed gases” is changed to “gases under pressure”.
The New Brunswick Occupational Health and Safety Act is amended with the addition of sections 36.1-36.6 (Administrative Penalties) and s. 37 is amended regarding appeals of administrative penalties.
Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act is amended to provide that the power to adopt codes, standards, criteria and guides includes the power to adopt them as they may be amended from time to time. Currently, subsection 70 (2) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act includes the authority to make regulations that adopt by reference certain codes, standards, criteria and guides. (S.O. 2020, c. 18, Sched. 13)
Each province and territory has its own plans to meet the needs of its population and economy. This tracker summarizes the status of business and community restoration plans across all Canadian jurisdictions. It documents the local state of emergency orders; what phase of recovery each jurisdiction is in; what kinds of gatherings are permitted; various travel restrictions across the country; personal protective equipment (PPE); and links to key relaunch and health and safety guidance. This tracker is updated weekly as the situation changes across Canadian jurisdictions.
Each year CCOHS looks for industrious, committed students in occupational health and safety programs to apply for their Dick Martin Scholarship Award. This national scholarship is open to all students enrolled in an occupational health and safety course or program at an accredited Canadian college or university, leading to an occupational health and safety certificate, diploma, or degree.
Two scholarships worth $3000 each will be awarded to one winning university student and one winning college student. A $500 award will also be provided to each of the winning students’ academic institutions.
To apply for the scholarship, post-secondary students are invited to submit a 1000-1200 word essay on one of two topics related to occupational health and safety. Essays will be judged on the intellectual content, the practical and theoretical value and the presentation and style. This year’s topics are:
For application rules, criteria, tips and other guidelines visit www.ccohs.ca/scholarship.
If you’re not a student, but know one, why not share this with them?
Applications are open until 11:59 p.m. EST, January 31, 2021.
As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, CCOHS has extended free availability of helpful online courses and publications until December 31, 2020. Workplaces are encouraged to widely use and share these resources to help prevent the spread and keep workers and communities safe.
More CCOHS Resources:
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2021, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety