COVID-19 Health and Safety Planning for Employers

Assessments and Control Plans for COVID-19

All Canadian employers must take reasonable action to make the workplace safe. Completing a risk assessment is one way to identify hazards that can hurt people or damage property and equipment. COVID-19 is a biological hazard that can be transmitted at work. Employers must put a plan into place describing the necessary steps to prevent exposure to and transmission of COVID-19. The plan should include procedures to monitor exposure and health, and processes to respond if any employee proactively reports or shows signs or symptoms of COVID-19.

Everyone in the workplace plays a role in keeping each other safe. Employers and supervisors must do everything under the circumstances to put the necessary control measures in place, inform workers about these measures, and make sure that workers comply with the procedures. Workers have the duty to follow these steps to protect themselves and others.

Illustration of a masked person checking COVID-19 resources on a smartphone.

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What is COVID-19

  • A new disease not previously identified in humans
  • A virus known as a coronavirus
  • Not bacteria
  • Not influenza (flu)

Symptoms of COVID-19

Symptoms can vary person to person and within different age groups. Older adults, people of any age with chronic medical conditions, people of any age who are immunocompromised, and those living with obesity are at risk for more severe disease and outcomes from COVID-19. The most common symptoms are:

  • New or worsening cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Temperature equal to or over 38°C
  • Feeling feverish
  • Chills
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Muscle or body aches
  • New loss of smell or taste
  • Headache
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting)
  • Feeling very unwell
  • Skin changes or rashes (young children)

Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to others. Some people with COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms. Some people require hospitalization. Most people with COVID-19 recover but in severe cases infection can lead to death.

How COVID-19 is Spread

  • Most commonly from person to person in close contact (within 2 metres) through respiratory droplets (e.g. coughing, sneezing, laughing, talking, singing)
  • By touching something with the COVID-19 virus on it and then touching your face (e.g. mouth, nose, eyes) before washing your hands
  • Remember that people infected with COVID-19 can show no symptoms but still spread the disease

COVID-19 Risk Assessments

Identify how employees could be exposed to COVID-19. Monitor the rate of transmission in your local community because a higher number of people infected with COVID-19 in your community can increase the risk of transmission in your workplace.

  • Determine the work areas to assess
    • Parking lots, building entrances and exits, walkways and hallways, reception areas, workstations, meeting rooms, lunchrooms, washrooms
  • Determine the job positions to assess
    • Reception, office, sales, production, maintenance, cleaning, shipping, trucking
  • Determine the work factors to assess
    • Working near others, working with external customers or public, frequency of face to face contact with others, working outside
  • Determine personal factors to assess
    • Employees with known pre-existing medical conditions, aged 60 and over, take public transit to work
  • Determine how to document the risks. Consider using a risk assessment checklist.
  • Identify who will complete the risk assessments
    • Consult with the health and safety committee or representative, workers that perform the task being evaluated, and other individuals competent in completing risk assessments
  • Determine the frequency of risk assessments
    • Initially assess all work areas/jobs where transmission can occur
    • Determine an appropriate interval to re-assess risk
    • When conditions in the workplace change, or the rate of community transmission increases, risk assessments may need to be updated

Develop your COVID-19 safety plan

General guidelines

  • Use the results of your risk assessments to identify existing and potential controls for preventing the transmission of COVID-19.
  • Refer to the hierarchy of controls to consider the most effective measures and opt for a “layered approach” with multiple strategies put in place.
  • Make sure new control measures do not create new hazards (e.g., fire doors are propped open to improve ventilation; blocking emergency exits when installing physical barriers).
  • Identify the person(s) responsible for making sure the control is in place.
  • Set a deadline for the control to be in place.
  • Monitor how well controls are being implemented and complied with. Consider necessary steps if issues arise.

Physical distancing, engineering and administrative controls

  • Keep 2 metres between employees including at desks, workstations, washrooms, or in meeting rooms.
  • Allow employees to work from home, if possible.
  • Limit the number of people allowed in indoor spaces and common areas at the same time.
  • Establish one-way routes and use signs and other markings to direct travel through shared spaces such as hallways, common areas, and washrooms.
  • Add physical barriers when distancing cannot be consistently maintained (e.g., using plexiglass or partitions higher than head-height).
  • Adjust the ventilation system to increase the volume of fresh air and include effective filtration. Windows and doors may be allowed to be opened, where possible, to increase air exchange.
  • Understand that some work practices may be modified to reduce how long and how many people are in contact with each other, such as:
    • Staggering work hours or workdays to reduce the number of contacts.
    • Modifying how services are delivered (e.g., limit number of clients present at one time, providing services outdoors, and curbside pick-ups).
    • Establishing cohorts (also referred to as a bubble, circle, or safe squad), a small group whose members – always the same people - do not always keep 2 metres apart. If someone does get sick, it is easier to trace a person’s close contacts when cohort members are known. Cohorts work together and take breaks together.
  • Cohorts can also be created for workers in shared accommodations and/or where there is shared transportation.
  • Train your employees on COVID-19 transmission and safety protocols.
  • Ask employees, contractors, suppliers, visitors and public to self-screen before coming into on-site. Make sure employees, contractors, suppliers, visitors and the public understand and follow your safety protocol.
  • Post outside notices asking people not to enter the building if they have symptoms or may have been exposed.
  • Post signage encouraging physical distancing, personal hygiene, respiratory etiquette and the wearing of non-medical masks/facial coverings.
  • Screen everyone before they come into the building. Do not let symptomatic or exposed persons enter the building. Maintain a record of each person entering the building and their contact number to help reduce occupancy and to contact in the event of a confirmed case. Encourage workers to self monitor while at work and report symptoms.
  • Prepare for increases in absenteeism due to illness among employees and their families or possible school closures. Adjust and communicate personal and sick leave and leave of absence policies so employees can stay home when ill, undergo COVID-19 testing, quarantine (self-isolate), take care of children or someone who is ill, or take sick leave without getting a medical note.
  • Consider suspending the need for medical notes to return to work, as it reduces the burden on an already stressed health care system.
  • Develop a protocol for medical emergencies in which an employee may need direct care (for both COVID-19 related issues and other health emergencies).
  • Provide additional personal protective equipment (PPE) if first aid responders need to provide direct care to an infected or symptomatic individual (e.g., face shield and mask, gown and gloves).
  • If employees must use public transportation to come to work, consider flexible hours to allow them to avoid peak travel periods.
  • Consider how employees will return home without using public transit if they develop symptoms at work.
  • Avoid all non-essential business-related travel. Consider options including participating virtually.
  • If travel is required, individuals must self-isolate for 14 days when returning to Canada.
  • Persons who cross the border regularly to ensure the continued flow of good and essential services or who provide other essential services to Canadians are exempt from needing to quarantine (self-isolate) if they are do not have symptoms. They must continue to practice physical distancing, monitor for symptoms, stay at home as much as possible and follow the instructions of their local public health authority this is a link to an external website if they feel sick.

Cleaning and disinfecting

  • Follow the cleaning and disinfecting schedule and document when cleaning has taken place.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as computers, shared equipment, tables, chairs, door and window handles, light switches, etc.
  • Monitor and restock washrooms and workspaces for soap paper towels and hand sanitizer.
  • Use a household or commercial disinfectant to destroy or inactivate the virus.
    • Use approved hard surface disinfectants with a Drug Identification Number (DIN). This number means that it has been approved for use in Canada.
    • Read and follow manufacturer's instructions for safe use of cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., wear gloves, use in well-ventilated area, allow enough contact time for disinfectant to kill germs based on the product being used).
    • If approved household or commercial disinfectant products are not available, hard surfaces can be disinfected using a mixture of 5 mL of bleach (5% sodium hypochlorite) and 250 mL of water. Test surfaces before using a bleach solution, as bleach can be corrosive. Follow instructions on the label or safety data sheet for safe handling of bleach.
    • If liquids can be withstood, disinfect high-touch electronic devices (such as touch screens, keyboards, tablets, smartboards) with alcohol or disinfectant wipes.
  • When cleaning, use disposable cleaning cloths and gloves suitable for the cleaning product.
  • Safely dispose of garbage at least once a day. Ensure there is an adequate inventory of supplies, training on cleaning protocols and training on PPE.

Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette

  • Post signage to encourage frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) when soap and water is not available.
    • at the start and end of the day, or when re-entering the building
    • before eating or drinking
    • after touching shared items
    • after using the washroom
    • after handling garbage
  • Post signage and provide supplies for respiratory etiquette. Provide tissues for employees to cough and sneeze into a tissue or into the bend of their arm. Provide no-touch plastic lined garbage bins for employees to discard used tissues.
  • Discourage sharing of items such as phones, tablets, tools or equipment unless they can be cleaned and disinfected between users.
  • If possible, assign each worker a unique set of tools for their use only. Consider using contactless payment methods such as pre-pay, tap, or e-transfer.
  • Have workers bring their own pre-filled water bottles and food. Food and water bottles should not be shared.

Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Continue to use PPE for existing occupational safety hazards and emergencies (i.e. for activities not related to COVID-19), as required by applicable laws, established work practices and your local public health authority.
  • Situations where PPE may be considered for protection from COVID-19 include:
    • Wearing gloves when cleaning as recommended by the product’s safe work instructions or safety data sheet
    • When direct care for a symptomatic/infected individual cannot be avoided
    • Wearing disposable gloves when cleaning blood or body fluids (e.g., vomit, stool, urine)
  • If employees are required to wear PPE, employers should also participate in the education and training session to learn how to wear, remove, work with, care for the equipment, and understand its limitations.
  • Clean and disinfect any shared PPE before and after you wear it as per the manufacturer’s recommendations (sharing PPE should be avoided where possible).
  • Wash hands before wearing and after removing gloves following the appropriate method for putting on and taking off PPE

Wearing non-medical masks or face coverings

  • The wearing of non-medical masks this is a link to an external website or cloth face coverings is an additional personal practice that can help to prevent the infectious respiratory droplets of an unknowingly-infected person from coming into contact with other people. Continue to follow other public health measures, ensuring a layered approach, to reduce chances of becoming ill.
  • Acknowledge that individuals may choose to wear masks regardless if there is a formal requirement.
  • Masks must be worn correctly, making sure nose and mouth are covered. Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Do not wear a mask if you are unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • Masks must be changed if it becomes wet or soiled. For example, workers may wish to bring a second mask in a clean paper bag, envelope, or container that does not trap moisture. Store reusable soiled masks in a separate bag or container. Workers should be reminded not to touch the outside of the mask while removing it and to wash hands before putting on and after taking off the mask.
  • For some situations, not being able to see the person’s face and mouth clearly may cause difficulties. Consider using a transparent mask if appropriate.
  • Some workers may have health-related concerns associated with wearing a mask and should get guidance from their healthcare provider.
  • Know the differences between and when to use respirators, surgical masks, and non-medical masks this is a link to a PDF document. Know how to safely use non-medical masks this is a link to a PDF document.
  • Do not allow the mask to be a hazard when performing other tasks or activities, such as getting caught in moving machinery or equipment.

Monitor how controls are working

  • Are the controls keeping people safe? Add or change controls to be more effective.
  • Have necessary control measures been implemented?
  • Are employees following control measures appropriately?
    • Are there logistical issues with the control measures?
    • Are there compliance issues with the control measures?
  • Ask employees for feedback on control measures and how they could be improved.
  • Consider necessary steps if issues arise with the control measure(s).
  • Continue to monitor your local public health agency for guidance and updates.

Where can I get more information?

Depending on your occupation, industry, jurisdiction, collective agreement, guidance from professional associations, and other factors, the requirements for your workplace may be different than what is provided in this document. Check guidance on COVID-19 often as it will be revised and updated as we learn more about the coronavirus.

Resources

CCOHS

Government of Canada

Government of Ontario

Document last updated on October 1, 2020

Emergency Response and Business Continuity Plans

All Canadian employers must take reasonable action to make the workplace safe. Employers can help keep workers from getting hurt and prevent damage to property and equipment by having a clear plan to deal with emergencies. This guidance will help workplaces update their emergency response and business contingency plans in response to COVID-19. Tips on how employers can help manage change is also provided.

Illustration of a masked person checking COVID-19 resources on a laptop.

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Emergency response planning in the context of COVID-19

Your emergency response plan includes your procedures for handling sudden or unexpected situations as a result of technological and natural hazards.

  • Technological hazards include fires, explosions, building collapse, spills, loss of power, loss of water, loss of communications, and terrorist attacks.
  • Natural hazards include floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, severe wind, snow or ice storms, infectious diseases, and pandemic diseases like COVID-19.

Key Elements of an Emergency Response Plan

Understand your hazards

Your emergency response plan starts with an understanding of your workplace hazards, possible emergencies and potential consequences.

  1. Complete a risk assessment to identify hazards (e.g., COVID-19).
  2. Identify all possible emergencies (e.g., a worker becomes symptomatic).
  3. Identify the potential consequences (e.g., spread of COVID-19 among workers; need for direct care for symptomatic individual).

Common areas to examine

While each organization is unique, consider:

  • Nature of the emergency
  • Degree of emergency
  • Size of the organization
  • Physical layout of the organization
  • Capabilities of the organization in an emergency
  • Immediacy of outside aid
  • The capacity of the local public health authority and primary care hospitals

Take action

Document required actions, written procedures and available resources for employees.

  • Include how to contact emergency response personnel (work locations, cell phone numbers, and alternate contact details).
  • Include external resources (fire department, local public health agency, occupational health and safety agency).
  • Consider specific elements such as:
    • Where symptomatic individuals can isolate on workplace premises.
    • Availability of personal protective equipment if direct care is needed for a symptomatic individual.
    • Transportation methods if symptomatic individual is travelling home or requires hospitalization.
    • Environmental cleaning and disinfection of objects, high-touch surfaces and settings the symptomatic individual had contact with.
    • Notification procedures for local public health authorities if case is detected.
    • Activities that may support contact tracing efforts of local public health unit (e.g., contact information, sign-in systems or records to identify contacts).
  • Provide written instructions to each staff member about their specific response duties and responsibilities.
  • Include large-scale maps showing evacuation routes and service conduits (such as gas and water lines) and floor plans. Consider measures to ensure these evacuations can occur safely, while still practicing physical distancing.
  • Determine if new control measures for COVID-19 have an impact on emergency response procedures and revise as needed (e.g., blocked emergency exits, fire doors opened for ventilation, availability of first aiders).
  • Make sure all employees know about the plan.
  • Test the plan to make sure it will work (e.g., fire drills, response to a symptomatic worker).
  • Review at least annually or when hazards change.

Business continuity plan

Your business continuity plan describes how you will continue to function during or after an emergency, disaster or event. It involves planning how your key services or products can be continued, and the recovery of key business and systems. While each organization is unique, the following should be considered during a pandemic like COVID-19:

  • Plan on people being unable to report to work because they are:
    • Sick, awaiting test results, quarantined or in isolation (for confirmed, probable and suspect cases and those identified as contacts).
    • Fulfilling volunteer roles in the community, including helping with emergency services.
    • Caring for school aged children (if sick, or in the event schools are closed), or other family members.
    • Preferring to remain at home, or under mandatory order by public health.
    • Avoiding public spaces, including gatherings, and avoidance of public transportation.
    • On long-term disability or may have passed away.
  • Follow measures to help slow the spread of illness by following the advice of public health officials (limiting or canceling social and public gatherings, temporarily closing businesses).
  • Consider how your core business activities can be maintained for several weeks or months with limited staff.
  • Consider accommodations for individuals who are at risk for more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19 due to their age or a chronic medical condition (e.g., consider options for working remotely, if possible).

Key elements of a business continuity plan in the context of COVID-19

Understand your business

The level of detailed needed for your continuity plan depends on the type of business you are, how complex the organization is, and its size.

  1. Identify critical processes, operations and functions.
  2. Identify your key internal and external dependencies (those factors, people or other businesses you rely on).

Common areas to examine

While each organization is unique, common considerations include:

  • Personnel
    • Identify and train reinforcements (back-ups) for essential (or all) functions.
    • Plan for possible overtime requirements from available staff.
  • Equipment
    • What is essential?
    • Do you need new equipment?
    • Do you need duplicate or back-up equipment?
  • Availability of assets
    • Ensure that you have access to facilities, utilities, raw materials, computers, machinery or equipment, replacement parts, tools, vehicles, communication equipment on-site or off-site. Includes ability to access systems from remote or home locations.
  • Availability of other resources or materials
    • Plan for other items. These needs could range from paper and/or electronic media, equipment (including off-site facilities or storage), security, power generation, etc.
  • Business commitments
    • Research possible contractual or legal implications for level of services or arrangements for non-performance of business agreements, etc.
  • Chain of command
    • Make sure employees know who is next in line for management/decision-making should someone not be available. The alternates must be trained to fulfill their roles in the plan.
  • Accounting
    • Ensure continued payroll, finances, and accounting systems.
  • Emergency contact list
    • Maintain an up-to-date contact list for your staff and your clients.

Take action

  • Decide your goals for recovery or continuance of your business.
  • Identify what needs to be done in the short- and long-term.
  • Determine how you will overcome obstacles (contractors, facilities, on-site vs. off-site).
  • Choose flexible solutions. For example, pandemics arrive in waves so you may need to plan for smaller and larger absenteeism rates.
  • Document what needs to get done and the resources needed.
  • Make sure all employees know about the plan.
  • Test the plan to make sure it will work (e.g., allow reinforcement (back-up) personnel to run operations).
  • Review at least annually or when business needs or hazards change.

Preparing for possible scenarios

What if an employee or employees get sick while at work?

Employers and workers have responsibilities to immediately report any symptoms, isolate, wear a mask (preferably a surgical mask if available) and leave work as soon as possible. Refer to the Responding to Positive or Suspected Cases tab for guidance.

What if an employee cannot or refuses to wear a non-medical mask or face covering?

  • Wearing a non-medical mask or face covering may be mandated by the local public health authority. Generally, non-medical masks are recommended when it is not possible to consistently maintain a 2-metre physical distance from others, particularly in crowded or indoor settings.
  • Monitor guidance from local public health authorities, and bylaws from municipalities.
  • Under the occupational health and safety legislation, the employer is also responsible for taking all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of employees. If guidance from the local public health authority recommends the use of non-medical masks, it may be reasonable for an employer to make this a requirement in the workplace as well, even if the workplace is not a public space. Make decisions in consultation with the health and safety committee or representative, and local public health authority. Appropriate risk assessments must be done to ensure this requirement would not cause any other hazards.
  • Employees with health-related concerns associated with wearing a mask may seek guidance from a medical professional. Employers must work with employees in identifying appropriate workplace accommodations.

What happens if an employee refuses work because they believe the workplace is unsafe?

Workers have the following rights:

  1. The right to know about health and safety matters, including potential exposure to COVID-19, and to be provided with the appropriate information, instructions, education, training, and supervision.
  2. The right to participate in decisions that could affect their health and safety, such as participating on the health and safety committee or as a representative, reporting concerns, or providing input.
  3. The right to refuse work that could affect their health and safety and that of others. This right is typically exercised only after other steps have not resolved the situation. Follow the work refusal process that has been established for your jurisdiction.
  • Encourage workers to immediately report any health and safety concerns to their supervisor or employer.
  • The employer or supervisor must respond to employee concerns, and, if in agreement, take corrective action(s) to resolve the matter. Explain the reasons you do or do not agree with the employee.
  • Encourage workers to also speak with their health and safety committee or representative about their concerns. They can investigate and provide a decision on their findings. They can make recommendations to the employer.
  • If a worker feels the work is dangerous to themselves or other workers, they have the right to refuse work. They must immediately inform their supervisor or employer that they are refusing unsafe work and wait in a safe area at the workplace.
  • The employer is then required to perform an investigation, in consultation with the health and safety committee or representative (if there is one).
  • If not satisfied with the resolution of the investigation, the occupational health and safety regulator can be contacted to provide further guidance to the employer and worker about the situation.
  • The employer has the right to temporarily reassign the worker to perform other work while the investigation is being conducted.
  • An employer may also assign another worker to perform the work, but only after advising the other worker of the work refusal and the reasons.
  • At all times during a work refusal process, workers can document their concerns about the dangerous situation or condition, persons they have spoken to, and the outcome of any conversations.
  • It is important for employers and workers to follow this work refusal process to ensure the required steps are taken.

What happens if an employee cannot or refuses to come into work because they are at risk for more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19?

  • Employees may not want to go to work regardless of the health and safety measures in place because they are at risk of more severe disease or outcomes for COVID-19.
  • Employers cannot assume they know the health status of individual employees and are not necessarily entitled to this information. Employees may choose to confidentially disclose health status to employers and accommodations can be made accordingly.
  • Employers and workers must work together to identify possible accommodations including flexible work arrangements, such as working from home.
  • If alternative work options are not available, consider options for taking sick leave, leaves of absences, protected job leaves, or other types of leaves.

How to respond to employee anxiety? Coping and care during the pandemic.

Managing occupational health and safety change

The COVID-19 pandemic requires organizations to update their emergency response and business continuity plans. This may mean that companies reorganize the way they do business. Services may move to an online or customer delivery models. More and more employees may work from home. Companies may downsize. While well-intended, changes do not necessarily lead to success. Here are ways to help you be more successful in implementing change in the context of COVID-19:

Clearly define the change and align it to business goals

  • What is needed to change?
  • Why is this change required?
  • Does the change reflect our values or mission statement?

Determine what and who is affected

  • What is the impact at all levels of the organization and business units?
  • How is each person affected?
  • Who is affected the most?
  • How will the change be received?

Develop a communication strategy

  • How will the change be communicated?
  • What are the key messages?
  • How will feedback be managed?

Provide effective training

  • What training methods will be most effective?
  • Teach the skills and knowledge to operate as efficiently as possible as the change is rolled out
  • Offer a blended approach (e.g., virtual training, online modules, on-the-job-coaching and mentoring)

Offer support

  • To help employees emotionally and practically adjust to the change
  • Build the proficiency of behaviours and technical skills needed to achieve business goals
  • Offer counselling when change causes redundancies or restructuring
  • Provide time for employees to ask questions as they arise
  • Consider existing resources (e.g., employee and family assistance program)

Measure the change process

  • Did the change help achieve the business goals?
  • How successful was the change management process?
  • What can or could we do differently?

Resources

CCOHS

Government of Canada

Document last updated on October 1, 2020

Responding to Suspected or Confirmed Cases

This guidance will help employers and workers respond to a suspected, confirmed case or outbreak of COVID-19.

Illustration of a masked person looking at COVID-19 guidance on a smartphone.

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General guidance for employers, managers and supervisors

  • Follow public health guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Ask employees, contractors, suppliers, visitors and public to self-screen before coming into work.
  • Post notices outside of the building asking people not to enter if they have symptoms or may have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Screen everyone before they come into the building.
  • Maintain a record of each person and their contact number to help with contact tracing if required.
  • Do not let symptomatic people enter the building. They must immediately self isolate from others, wear a face mask (preferably a surgical mask) and go home. They must also avoid taking public transit (e.g., bus, train, taxi, rideshare) if possible.
  • Make sure contractors, suppliers, visitors and the public understand and follow your safety protocols.
  • Encourage the reporting of symptoms as soon as possible.
  • Communicate company policies on workplace accommodation, sick leaves and leave of absences for workers.
  • Provide resources on mental health, including the prevention of stigma.
  • Post your COVID-19 emergency response plan. Train all employees, contractors and visitors.
  • Update the company’s business contingency plan. Train all employees and notify customers.
  • Provide additional personal protective equipment to first aid responders if direct care for an infected or symptomatic individual is unavoidable (masks, face shields, gloves, gowns).
  • If possible, provide an isolation room in the event of a suspected case of COVID-19.
  • Practice emergency drills for responding to an employee with symptoms.
  • Develop a process for environmental cleaning and disinfecting of objects, high-touch surfaces, and settings when an employee reports or is suspected to have COVID-19 and/or begins to experience symptoms at work.

Employer requirements: planning for employee absences

Employees are required to quarantine (isolate) for 14 days when they

  • Have had close contact (within 2 metres for more than 15 minutes) with someone who has or is suspected to have COVID-19
  • Are awaiting COVID-19 test results
  • Have been told by public health that they have been exposed and need to quarantine
  • Are returning from travel from outside of Canada for non-essential reasons. Some provinces and territories have additional travel restrictions (for example, no non-essential travel into the province, limited access to certain regions within the province, etc.). Refer to the list of provincial and territorial websites this is a link to an external website for more information.

Traveling for essential service

  • Employees who are considered an essential service to Canada’s supply chain are exempt from the 14-day quarantine when returning to Canada and are symptom-free (e.g., truck drivers). These employees should:
    • Continue to self-monitor for symptoms and follow other personal preventative practices (physical distancing, frequent hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette).
    • Follow the recommendations of local, provincial/territorial and federal public health authorities.
    • Wear non-medical masks or face coverings when crossing the Canada-US border.
    • Check provincial and territorial requirements for returning to Canada as this could affect entry.

What to consider when employees are in isolation/quarantine

  • Review options for an employee to work from home. Employees who are in good health, able to work but required by public health to quarantine may continue to work remotely.
  • Follow company policies for employee absences from work (workers compensation, sick leave, long-term disability, etc.).
  • Inquire into government-approved leaves for employees and employers (e.g., employment, infectious disease).
  • When informing others, keep the identity and diagnosis of the employee confidential.
  • Depending on the nature of the affected employee’s job and the nature of the employer’s operations, this may require an entire office, a floor of an office, or persons in proximity to the affected employee to self-isolate.
  • Consult local public health authorities for further information on best steps to take.
  • Review your business continuity plan (e.g., replacing workers).

When an employee is exposed or becomes sick

  • Inform employees not to come into work even if their symptoms are mild.
  • If the employee is at work, immediately provide a mask or face covering to the sick employee (preferably a surgical mask).
  • Isolate the sick employee from others (e.g., in a first aid or isolation room).
  • Provide first aid to the sick employee, if needed. If direct care is unavoidable, ensure there is appropriate personal protective equipment available for the individual providing care (masks, face shields, gowns, gloves).
  • Call 911 if the sick employee has difficulty breathing or other symptoms requiring immediate medical attention.
  • Confirm the sick employee’s contact information.
  • Identify the date, frequency and type of interactions the sick employee had with other workers, visitors, and customers, to report to the local public health authority if needed.
  • Let the sick employee go home and encourage them to avoid public transportation, taxis, carpooling or ridesharing services, if possible.
  • Complete cleaning and disinfection protocols, with a focus on the objects, high-touch surfaces and settings the sick employee came into contact with.
  • Contact employee to confirm isolation requirements and when they will be returning to work.
  • Inform the sick employee of company policies available to them (e.g., sick leave, leaves of absence).
  • Make sure other employees continue to self-monitor and encourage reporting of symptoms.
  • Increase communication and provision of mental health resources to all employees.
  • Review and improve public health measures in the workplace, as needed.
  • Plan for alternate work arrangements and leaves of absence for the sick employee, as well as any other staff that were identified as having potential exposures or are at risk.
  • Monitor for more employee cases.

Employer reporting requirements

If a case is detected, employers are required to notify people inside and outside the organization, including:

  • Other employees who may have been exposed to the sick employee
  • The health and safety committee or health and safety representative
  • The worker’s union, if applicable
  • Local public health authority

If an employee reports contracting COVID-19 at work, employers must also submit documentation to the appropriate authorities, including:

Role of other agencies

  • The workers compensation board will determine if a worker’s COVID-19 diagnosis is work-related and determine the appropriate benefits (health care, loss of earnings).
  • The government health and safety agency will:
    • investigate reports of COVID-19 claims
    • inspect workplaces to monitor compliance with health and safety legislation
    • investigate unsafe work practices, serious injuries, fatalities, hazardous exposures, work refusals and occupational illness, as related to worker health and safety. This includes investigation of reports of COVID-19 by employers and employees to government health and safety agencies.
  • The local public health authority will:
    • investigate clusters of cases associated with workplace locations
    • provide guidance and recommendations on outbreak measures, investigation and testing
    • determine if an outbreak exists and when an outbreak is over.

Disclosure of medical information

  • Employers should be flexible and not overburden the health care system with requests for medical notes. Unnecessarily visiting medical offices increases risk of exposure for everyone.
  • An employee is not required to provide a medical note if they need to take a leave related to COVID-19.
  • Maintain confidentiality as much as possible. Employers should not disclose any personal information including medical diagnosis of ill employees to others.

Return to work

  • Consider whether employees are required to provide proof of a negative test result in order to return to work.
  • Follow the guidance for return to work provided by the employee’s health care provider, local public health authority, and workers compensation board, if applicable.
  • Employers and workers must work together to identify any accommodation needs this is a link to an external website for a safe return to work.

Resources

Government of Canada

Document last updated on October 1, 2020

Employee Orientation and Training

Employee orientation and training helps workers understand the hazards and controls in place to help keep them safe and maintain equipment and property in good condition.

Illustration of a masked person checking COVID-19 training resources on a laptop.

On this page

Employer responsibilities

Canadian employers have legal responsibilities relating to:

  • Supervision, instruction, training and education of workers.
  • Making sure employees and supervisors understand hazards.
  • Working together with the health and safety committee or representative.
  • Taking every precaution reasonable for the safety and health of workers.
  • Following public health guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Employee responsibilities

  • Follow public health guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Attend training as required by your employer.
  • Follow company safety rules and procedures.
  • Wear personal protective equipment as required by your employer.
  • Make sure you understand how to work safely. Speak with your supervisor if you have questions or concerns.
  • Report health and safety concerns or hazards to your employer or supervisor immediately.
  • Self monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.

Goals of employee training, education and information

Consider the goals of your employee training plan. An effective training helps workers understand:

  • The characteristics and health effects of the hazard. COVID-19 is a virus that causes respiratory disease.
  • The controls in place to help protect themselves and others from the hazard (e.g., symptoms screening everyone before entering the building and other procedures they must follow to work safely).
  • The strengths and limitations of controls (physical distancing is one of the most effective control measures; having a “layered approach” with multiple mitigation strategies is important).
  • How to appropriately put on and take off, wear, as well as store a non-medical mask or face covering.
  • How to use, wear, inspect, clean, store and replace personal protective equipment (respirators, gloves, gowns) especially when direct care of an infected or symptomatic individual is unavoidable.
  • How and when to report hazards to their supervisor.
  • What to do if an emergency happens (e.g., someone at work begins to experience symptoms; how to practice control measures during a non-COVID-19 emergency event, such as a fire evacuation).

Workers can take what they have learned and practice safe work procedures before doing the actual work.

Developing a COVID-19 training program

What do you want your employees to know? How do you want them to respond to the hazard of COVID-19? Is training the same for new, experienced, casual or temporary workers? How does the training program fit into your new employee orientation program? Consider:

  • What is COVID-19?
  • How COVID-19 is spread
  • Risk factors at work:
    • Some people may be more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 because their jobs or occupations require them to be in contact with large numbers of people. Other factors that may increase risk of exposure include:
      • Working in closed spaces with poor ventilation;
      • Working in crowded places where a large number of people gather;
      • Working in close contact where you can’t keep 2 metres apart from others.
  • Risk factors outside of work:
    • Settings that are closed, crowded and permit close, prolonged contact with others (e.g., public transit).
    • You (or someone you live with) is at risk for more severe disease or outcomes if you are:
      • An older adult (increases with each decade, especially over 60 years);
      • Of any age with chronic medical conditions, including: lung disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, or dementia or stroke;
      • Of any age and are immunocompromised, including those: with an underlying medical condition or taking medications which lower the immune system;
      • Living with obesity (body mass index of 40 or higher).
  • Public health recommendations to reduce the spread of COVID-19:
    • Physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, non-medical masks and face coverings
  • Controls the employer has taken to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19, such as:
    • Physical distancing measures (working remotely )
    • Engineering controls (increased ventilation, plexiglass between workstations)
    • Administrative controls (training)
    • Personal protective equipment
    • Non-medical masks and face coverings
    • Workplace screening requirements
  • Emergency response plan (fire wardens, first aid attendants, meeting locations, resources).
  • How to self-screen for COVID-19. Follow the Public Health Agency of Canada’s steps for self-assessment or use a self-assessment tool this is a link to an external website from your local public health authority.
  • Symptoms of COVID-19:
    • Symptoms can vary person to person and within different age groups. Persons with certain medical conditions can be at greater risk of infection. Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to others. Some people with COVID 19 have mild or no symptoms. Some people require hospitalization. Most people with COVID-19 recover but in severe cases infection can lead to death.
    • Symptoms may change as evidence evolves. Check often to make sure your information is current this is a link to an external website.
    • Most common symptoms are:
      • New or worsening cough
      • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
      • Temperature equal to or over 38°C
      • Feeling feverish
      • Chills
      • Fatigue or weakness
      • Muscle or body aches
      • New loss of smell or taste
      • Headache
      • Gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting)
      • Feeling very unwell
      • Skin changes or rashes (young children)
  • What to do when workers become exposed or get sick (wearing a mask and self-isolating, report to supervisor/employer and contacting local public health authority).
  • When to self-isolate (returning to Canada, showing symptoms, as directed by the local public health authority).
  • Return to work process (following instructions from local public health authority, no need for a medical note, accommodation procedures).
  • Resources available to employees (mental health resources, employee assistance programs, community resources).
  • Company policies (workplace accommodation, sick leaves, leave of absences).
  • Determine how you will know that employees have learned what they need to (tests, observations, inspections).
  • Update training as new information on COVID-19 becomes available or as controls or business needs change.

Additional training considerations

Employees may require additional training depending on their roles and responsibilities.

Managers and supervisors

  • How to monitor self and others for COVID-19 symptoms.
  • How to respond to a worker who reports symptoms at work.
  • What to do in the event of an outbreak.
  • Roles and responsibilities in emergency response and business continuity plans.
  • Available resources to employees.

Emergency response providers

  • How to manage fire drills to promote physical distancing.
  • How to respond to a worker or workers who become sick at work.
  • Availability of additional personal protective equipment (PPE) if direct care is unavoidable (face shields, gowns).
  • Training on the use, care, inspection, storage, cleaning, disinfecting and limitations of PPE.

Persons responsible for cleaning and disinfecting

  • Procedures on routine cleaning, deep cleaning and disinfecting.
  • WHMIS training on products used for cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Availability of additional PPE (face shields, gloves).
  • Training on the use, care, inspection, storage, cleaning, disinfecting and limitations of PPE.

Resources

CCOHS

Government of Canada

Document last updated on October 1, 2020