Assessments and Control Plans for COVID-19
Risk 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.
On this page
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
- Fatigue or weakness
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of smell or taste
- 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
- 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.
engineering and administrative
- 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
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.
- 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
- 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
- Post signage to encourage frequent hand washing with soap and water for
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
- 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
- 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
- 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 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.
- Check the occupational health and safety legislation in your jurisdiction and COVID-19 Re-Opening Requirements across Canada.
- Refer to CCOHS’ COVID-19 tip sheets and the Public Health Agency of Canada this is a link to an external website for additional information.
- You can also contact the CCOHS Inquiries Service for more information.