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Rapid antigen testing, referred to as rapid testing, is an important COVID-19 screening tool that employers can use to help protect workers, customers, and their communities. The tests are quick to administer, easy to use, and safe. Including rapid testing as part of the workplace screening process, in combination with other public health measures such as wearing a mask, physical distancing, and vaccination, can help protect workers from COVID-19 and prevent its spread.
COVID-19 transmission can be caused by people without symptoms. Testing and screening are important tools to quickly identify people who are asymptomatic and need to isolate. Health Canada reports that rapid tests have helped to identify and stop the transmission of thousands of likely positive cases of COVID-19 in Canada.
Results and testimonials from workplaces in Canada using rapid testing found that most employers and workers felt an increased sense of protection and security in the workplace. They also found the overall disruption to workplaces was minimal.
Rapid testing can be used for workers who show no symptoms and have passed the initial screening. Workers who have had COVID-19 within the last 3 months should not participate in rapid testing, as they may get a false positive result. Rapid testing is not a substitute or a replacement for diagnostic testing but may be used in addition to a laboratory-based PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test under the guidance of the local public health authority when there is a suspected or confirmed outbreak in the workplace.
Rapid tests can be conducted by a health care professional or trained individual, depending on the requirements for your jurisdiction. Most tests can be done with a nasal swab to collect the required sample. A deep-penetrating nasopharyngeal swab is not required. The samples taken from a rapid test do not need to be sent to a laboratory. The results from the test are usually available within 15 to 20 minutes. Rapid testing is most effective at identifying those with high viral load and high transmission potential. Consider scheduling rapid tests at regular intervals, such as twice per week.
When there is a presumptive positive result, the worker should immediately isolate from others, tell their employer, and then get a PCR test through the local public health authority to confirm the rapid test result. Continue to follow all public health measures and isolation advice from local public health officials while waiting for these test results.
Even if a worker’s test results are negative, they still need to follow all health and safety measures that are in place to protect everyone in the workplace.
Employers need to take every precaution reasonable to protect the health and safety of their workers. As part of a COVID-19 screening process, rapid testing is a fast and effective way of identifying potential cases. Employers should also assess the risks of COVID-19 for their specific workplace and the activities conducted by their workers. It is important to keep informed, be prepared, and follow the advice of the local public authority as the situation evolves. Test results must also remain confidential – identify who will have access to the results, how they will be stored, and for how long. Follow privacy laws for your jurisdiction.
The Government of Canada, some provincial/territorial governments, and distribution partners are providing free rapid tests to organizations for workplace screening. Businesses and not-for-profit organizations are eligible to apply.
The XXII World Congress on Safety and Health at Work is embracing this year’s theme of ‘Prevention in the Connected Age: global solutions to achieve safe and healthy work for all’. Taking place completely online from September 20-23, 2021, the prevention community will come together to address this global priority.
The Congress will approach this theme by breaking down the information into three major topics:
This digital event offers world-class speakers, inspiring experiences, elevated networking, premium content, and access to global leaders. The Congress will feature six technical sessions and 21 symposia with over 150 global experts on key health and safety topics and trends. Details can be found here.
The Congress is organized by the International Labour Organization and the International Social Security Association and is co-hosted by CCOHS and the Institute for Work and Health.
To register for the XXII World Congress, visit the website.
CCOHS releases new podcasts each month to help you stay current and informed on workplace health, safety, and well-being in Canada.
A recent study reported that Canadians spend about 11 hours a day looking at a screen. Extended computer or digital device use can lead to a number of eye and vision problems, headaches, back pain, and sleep issues. Learn more about giving your eyes the break they need.
Podcast runs 5:38 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
The Carer-inclusive and accommodating organizations standard was created to help employers support workers in Canada who provide care and assistance to family or friends living with ongoing conditions, while working at the same time. In this episode Dr. Allison Williams, chair of the committee that created the standard, discusses how workplaces can support the growing numbers of carer-workers.
Podcast runs 14:37 minutes. Listen to the podcast now
Working from home or remotely is the new norm for many of us but health and safety should still be top of mind. To support the changing way of work, CCOHS has updated their Telework and Home Office Health and Safety Guide to include new and practical information for both employers and people working from home.
The guide features updated language and information to provide support on:
The guide also contains practical information for employers and individuals on how to:
To help support workplaces during COVID-19, the PDF version of this guide has been made available free of charge.
Workers in the trades can experience higher rates of injury and pain. Without proper guidance, those who use opioids or other substances to deal with this pain may be at an increased risk for experiencing harms. Fortunately, employers can support their workers in a number of ways.
A new infographic, developed in partnership with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), highlights the issue and provides tips for employers to help address stigma and impairment while supporting the health and safety of their workers.
CCSA, along with Health Canada, has also released a new toolkit to help employers support workers on issues related to substance use, health, and safety. Substance Use and the Workplace: Supporting Employers and Employees in the Trades includes links to education and prevention information, help on addressing substance use through policies and accommodation, and employee-specific 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