COVID-19 Health and Safety Planning for Employers

COVID-19 Risk Assessments and Safety Plans

All employers in Canada are responsible for the health and safety of their workplace. Under occupational health and safety laws, the employer must do everything reasonable under the circumstances to protect workers from hazards that can cause them harm, including COVID-19.

Actions that an employer can take to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in their workplace include:

  • Understand the hazard: What COVID-19 is and how it spreads.
  • Perform risk assessments: Identify and evaluate the risks of COVID-19 spread in their unique workplace setting.
  • Prepare a written COVID-19 Safety Plan: Describe the control measures that will be used, and how the workplace will respond to confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases.
  • Implementation: Put the appropriate COVID-19 control measures in place.
  • Communication and Training: Provide workers with the information and training they need to understand the risks and correctly follow the control measures.
  • Enforcement: Make sure that people follow the control measures when in the workplace. Workers share the duty to protect themselves and others against the spread of COVID-19.
  • Verification: Make sure the control measures continue to meet the requirements of local public health and OHS authorities and are working as intended.

This page provides information about COVID-19 and guidance on how to perform a COVID-19 risk assessment and prepare a COVID-19 safety plan.

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

On this page

What is COVID-19

  • A disease found in humans and animals
  • Caused by a coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2
  • An acronym for Coronavirus Disease 2019
  • A biological hazard that can spread at work and in the community
  • Not the influenza (flu) virus, a bacterium, or a parasite

Symptoms of COVID-19

Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • New or worsening cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Temperature equal to or over 38°C (fever)
  • New loss of smell or taste
  • Other symptoms of being unwell (feverish, chills, aches, fatigue, headache, diarrhea)

Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to the virus and can vary between different people. Some people with COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms, while others require hospitalization.

People of all age groups can become sick with COVID-19, including otherwise healthy individuals. Older adults, people of any age with chronic medical conditions (asthma, immunocompromised), and those living with obesity are at greater risk of severe disease and outcomes from COVID-19.

Most people with COVID-19 recover; however, some may experience long-term effects for weeks or months after their initial recovery (e.g., post COVID-19 condition, “long COVID”), and severe infections can lead to death.

For more information, refer to:

How COVID-19 is Spread

COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets and aerosols, released when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, shouts, or sings. Droplets can quickly settle onto surfaces, while fine aerosols can stay suspended in the air for long periods of time.

The virus can spread directly from person to person when they are in close contact (i.e., within 2 metres), or when they touch something with the COVID-19 virus on it and then touch their face (e.g., mouth, nose, eyes) with unwashed hands (known as fomite transmission).

The COVID-19 virus is more likely to spread:

  • During prolonged contact
  • In crowded places
  • In indoor spaces with poor ventilation
  • During physical exertion with increased breathing rates (e.g., exercise, strenuous work)
  • In congregate housing (e.g., bunk houses, residences)
  • In cool and humid environmental conditions
  • If there is low compliance with public or workplace health measures
  • In communities with variants of concern (VOCs) and low vaccination rates
  • In settings where there is more than one risk factor

An infected person can spread the virus to others when they have no symptoms (asymptomatic), before they begin to show symptoms (pre-symptomatic), or when they have one or more mild or serious symptoms (symptomatic). A vaccinated person can still be infected with and spread COVID-19 (a breakthrough case), although the risk is lower than for the unvaccinated.

For more information, refer to:

COVID-19 Risk Assessments

Each workplace is unique, so it is important to perform a COVID-19 risk assessment before implementing control measures to protect your workers.

First, decide how and when the risk assessment will be performed:

  • Assign responsibility for completion of the risk assessment. Consult with the health and safety committee or representative, workers that perform the tasks being evaluated, the union (if applicable), and other individuals competent in completing risk assessments.
  • Consider using a risk assessment form to guide and document the assessment.
  • Decide the frequency of your risk assessments. After the initial assessment, you will need to re-assess the risks:
    • at regular intervals,
    • when there have been changes to workplace conditions and procedures,
    • according to the rates of community transmission and vaccination, or
    • according to current guidance and requirements of the local public health or workplace OHS authority.

Next, identify how, when, and where your workers could be exposed to the COVID-19 hazard, and any workplace or job factors that could increase the risk of spread. Here are some examples:

  • Work areas:
    • Parking lots, building entrances and exits, walkways and hallways, reception areas, workstations, production lines, meeting rooms, lunchrooms, washrooms.
  • Job positions:
    • Receptionist, administrator, salesperson, production, maintenance, shipper-receiver, cleaner, delivery or transport driver, medical or care worker, teacher, inspector, etc.
  • Work factors:
    • How often does the job require proximity to others or crowds, working with external customers or public, face-to-face conversations, direct contact with vulnerable or sick populations (e.g., care homes, medical settings, outreach), use of shared items or equipment, strenuous activity, etc.
  • Workplace conditions:
    • Ventilation, temperature, humidity, noise, placement of furniture and equipment, room sizes, availability of hand hygiene stations (running water and hand sanitizer), cleanliness of surfaces and objects, indoor or outdoor locations.
  • Personal factors:
    • Workers with known pre-existing medical conditions, aged 60 and over, who take public transit to work, have language or physical barriers, live in multi-generational households, or belong to marginalized communities.
  • Local community:
    • Positive case numbers and percentage of the population that is vaccinated.

Finally, prioritize the risks you have found by evaluating their probability and severity. The situations that are most likely to occur (high probability) and could lead to the most serious negative impacts (high severity) have the greatest amount of risk and should be actioned first.

For guidance on how to perform a risk assessment, refer to:

Develop your COVID-19 safety plan

General Guidelines

  • Use the results of your risk assessments to identify appropriate control measures for preventing the transmission of COVID-19 in your workplace. See below for recommended control measures.
  • In some jurisdictions, a written and posted COVID-19 safety plan is mandatory.
  • Manage the change process. Refer to the Emergency Response, Business Continuity Plan, and Change Management tab for more information about change management.
  • Make sure new control measures will not create new hazards or violate existing safety regulations (e.g., fire doors propped open to improve ventilation, masks becoming entangled in moving machinery).
  • Identify the person(s) responsible for making sure the controls are in place and operating effectively.
  • Set deadlines for the controls to be in place, and document completion.
  • Provide communication and training to workers and visitors about the safety plan.
  • Once they are in place, monitor how well the controls are working and make sure they are being followed.
  • Ask workers for feedback on the control measures and how they could be improved.
  • Consider necessary actions if issues arise such as with logistics or compliance.
  • Continue to refer to your local public health agency and government for guidance and updates.

COVID-19 Control Measures

Your COVID-19 safety plan should include a description of each control measure that you have or will put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace.

Some control measures may be mandatory requirements from your local public health authority, while others may be optional. If the transmission risks in your workplace setting and local community remain high, consider keeping some control measures in place even if requirements have eased.

No single control measure is 100% effective against all the different ways that COVID-19 can spread (i.e., person-to-person, by airborne transmission, and from surfaces and objects). A layered approach that combines public health measures and workplace health and safety controls provides the strongest protection against exposure to COVID-19. With each added layer of control, the risk of exposure is lowered.

For more information refer to:

Below is a summary of control measures to include in your COVID-19 safety plan, how each measure helps to prevent transmission, and examples of actions you can take to implement the control measures. Links have been provided to more in-depth guidance documents.

Physical distancing

COVID-19 hazard: Close or direct contact between people from different households.

Prevention goal: Maintain the greatest distance possible (at least 2 metres) between people and keep their interactions as few and brief as possible.

Actions: Policies, physical barriers, floor-signs, spacing apart furniture and equipment, capacity and gathering limits, cohorts and staggered shifts, telework and online services.

Guidance resources:

Ventilation and air filtration

COVID-19 hazard: Accumulation of airborne virus particles in poorly ventilated indoor settings.

Prevention goal: Reduce the amount of accumulated virus particles in the air.

Actions: Increase air exchange and the volume of fresh air by adjusting ventilation systems and opening windows and doors. Include effective air filtration where possible.

Guidance resources:

Cleaning and disinfecting

COVID-19 hazard: High-touch surfaces and shared objects contaminated with the virus.

Prevention goal: Reduce the amount of virus on high-touch surfaces and shared objects.

Actions: An effective cleaning and disinfection program that includes schedules and checklists.

Guidance resources:

Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette

COVID-19 hazard: Unwashed hands can carry the virus that causes COVID-19. Coughing or sneezing into your hands can contaminate them with infectious respiratory droplets and aerosols, as well as thicker mucus discharge.

Prevention goal: Reduce the amount of virus on people’s hands. Reduce the transfer of respiratory droplets, aerosols, and mucus to other people.

Actions: Promote good respiratory and hand-hygiene practices. Provide handwashing facilities, hand-sanitizer stations, and tissues. Discourage sharing of food, beverages, and personal use items.

Guidance resources:

Communication, awareness, and training

COVID-19 hazard: Lack of awareness or misinformation about COVID-19 risks and prevention, resulting in low compliance to control measures.

Prevention goal: Provide accurate information and training on the practical skills needed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Actions: Provide frequent communication and training about COVID-19, policies and procedures, and the rights and responsibilities of workers, supervisors, and others.

Guidance resources:

Screening and response plan

COVID-19 hazard: People who are sick with COVID-19 or who may have been recently exposed can spread COVID-19 even if they have mild or no symptoms, regardless of vaccination status.

Prevention goal: Identify people who may be sick with COVID-19 or have been recently exposed and prevent them from entering or remaining in the workplace.

Actions: Screen everyone before they enter the workplace (in-person or self-assessment), start a rapid testing program, promote the COVID Alert App, and have an emergency response plan for what to do if someone in the workplace becomes unwell.

Guidance resources:


COVID-19 hazard: Unvaccinated people are more likely to become sick with COVID-19, experience serious medical outcomes, and spread the disease to others.

Prevention goal: Increase the percentage of the population who are vaccinated against COVID-19. Reduce the chance of a workplace outbreak. Reduce absenteeism due to worker illness and isolation-quarantine requirements.

Actions: Promote vaccination, provide support for workers to receive the vaccine (e.g., time off for appointments), and follow regional mandatory vaccination policies (e.g., vaccine passports).

Guidance resources:

Wearing masks

COVID-19 hazard: Respiratory droplets and aerosols from a person who is sick with COVID-19 can be spread when they speak, cough, sneeze, shout, sing, or have increased breathing rate.

Prevention goal: Block respiratory droplets and aerosols and reduce the distance they travel from the sick person’s mouth and nose.

Actions: Create and enforce a mask-wearing policy. Provide education on proper mask use and care. Make sure that masks worn in the workplace meet the recommendations for good fit and construction.

Important Note: Non-medical masks (NMMs) are not considered personal protective equipment as they do not meet the same performance and quality testing requirements. NMMs do not filter virus particles from surrounding air, but they can help to block droplet spray from the wearer and other people.

Guidance resources:

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

COVID-19 hazard: When a worker has close contact with people who are or may be sick (e.g., medical, long-term care, outreach settings), or is using cleaning and disinfection chemicals as part of their work.

Prevention goal: To protect workers from potential biological (COVID-19) and chemical (cleaning and disinfection products) hazards.

Actions: Make sure the correct PPE for your workplace and activities is used (e.g., surgical masks and respirators, eye protection, face shields, gloves, safety footwear, gowns, etc.). Follow all applicable occupational health and safety regulations for PPE.

Guidance resources:

Where can I get more information?

Depending on your location, occupation, industry, jurisdiction, collective agreement, guidance from professional associations, and other factors, the requirements for your workplace may be different than what is provided on this page.

Check guidance on COVID-19 often as it will be revised and updated as more is learned about the coronavirus. Refer to trusted sources of information and make sure to fact-check online sources.

You can also contact CCOHS’ Inquiries Service with questions about COVID-19 and other health and safety issues.



Government of Canada

Document last updated on January 10, 2022

Emergency Response Plan, Business Continuity Plan, and Change Management

All employers in Canada must take reasonable actions to make the workplace safe. Employers can help keep workers from getting hurt or sick by having a plan to deal with emergencies, while also having a business continuity plan to keep the workplace functioning during and after an emergency.

This guidance can help workplaces update both their emergency response and business continuity plans in response to COVID-19, as well as manage the change process.

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

On this page

Emergency Response Plan

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, computer hacking, and terrorist attacks.
  • Natural hazards include floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, severe wind, snow or ice storms, and infectious diseases such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

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:

  • Complete a risk assessment to identify hazards (e.g., COVID-19).
  • Identify all possible emergencies (e.g., a worker becomes symptomatic).
  • Identify the potential consequences (e.g., spread of COVID-19 among workers, need for direct care of symptomatic individuals, lost productivity due to absences).

Also consider the probability of the emergency occurring, and how severe the effects could be. The greater the probability and/or severity, the greater the risk to your workers and business continuity.

Understand your workplace

  • Size of the workforce.
  • Physical layout of the workplace.
  • Capabilities in an emergency, including trained personnel and response equipment.
  • How quickly outside aid can be received.
  • The capacity of the local public health authority and primary care hospitals.

Understand the actions to take

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

  • Prepare written emergency response procedures, and resource checklists (e.g., first aid supplies).
  • Detail how to respond to a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case.
  • Include how to contact emergency response personnel (names of people and their emergency response roles, work locations, cell phone numbers, and alternate contact details).
  • Include a list of external resources (fire department, local public health agency, occupational health and safety regulator, workplace compensation or insurance board, environmental regulator, hazardous waste hauler, etc.).
  • Consider specific elements such as:
    • Where symptomatic individuals can isolate on workplace premises (consider preparing a designated area).
    • Availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) if direct care is needed for a symptomatic individual.
    • Transportation methods if symptomatic individual is travelling home or requires hospitalization.
    • Cleaning and disinfection of objects, high-touch surfaces, and settings the symptomatic individual had contact with.
    • Safe disposal of contaminated items (e.g., used PPE, rapid COVID-19 test kits, and cleaning materials).
    • Notification procedures for local public health authorities if a case is detected.
    • Activities that may support contact tracing efforts of the local public health unit (e.g., contact information, sign-in systems, or records to identify contacts).
  • Provide communication and training about the plan, including written instructions for each person about their specific response duties and responsibilities.
  • Fire codes require floor plan maps posted in key locations, showing evacuation routes and exits, emergency equipment (extinguishers and hoses, first aid, spill kits), and utilities that may need to be shut off (e.g., gas, water, electrical). For COVID-19 response, consider adding the designated isolation area and PPE supply locations.
  • Determine if new control measures for COVID-19 could have an impact on existing emergency response procedures (e.g., blocked emergency exits, fire doors opened for ventilation, availability of first aiders, maintaining physical distancing during an evacuation or shelter-in-place).
  • When updating your emergency procedures to include COVID-19 control measures, make sure that fire codes and other applicable legislation are still followed, and no new hazards are created.
  • Test the plan to make sure it will work. Run practice drills, review the results, and make improvements as needed.
  • Review at least annually or when hazards, control measures, or regulations change.

Business continuity plan

Your business continuity plan describes how your workplace will continue to function during or after an emergency, disaster, or event. It involves planning how your services or products can continue to be provided, and the recovery of key business and systems.

While each organization is unique, the following should be considered during a pandemic:

  • Knowing which key factors are essential for your workplace to continue functioning.
  • How to implement and follow the control measures needed to help slow the spread of the disease, while supporting existing business activities.
  • How your core business activities can be maintained for several weeks or months with limited staff or other key resources.
  • How to maintain staffing levels and productivity. Plan on people being unable to report to work for various reasons (e.g., stay-at-home orders, sickness, isolation or quarantine, accommodation, child or elder care, volunteering, reservist service, etc.).
  • Where to find reliable sources of public health and occupational safety information.

Key Elements of a Business Continuity Plan

Understand your business

The level of detail needed for your business continuity plan depends on the type, size, and complexity of your workplace. Identify the key factors you need to continue functioning:

  • Critical processes, operations, and functions.
  • Internal and external dependencies.

Here are examples of key factors that should be protected:

  • 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, duplicate, or back-up equipment?
    • Do you need to move existing equipment?
  • Availability of assets
    • Ensure that you have continued access to facilities, utilities, raw materials, computers, machinery or equipment, replacement parts, tools, vehicles, and communication equipment.
    • Include ability to access systems from remote or home locations.
  • Availability of other resources or materials
    • Plan to use alternate items if your current resources are not available due to delays or shortages. For example, a manufacturer might test and pre-approve substitute raw materials from several different suppliers.
    • Stock extra sundry items that could quickly run out, such as paper, pens, printer ink cartridges, toilet paper, etc.
    • Have back-ups, such as off-site facilities or storage, emergency power generation, extra computer servers for files and data, etc.
  • Business commitments
    • Your commitments to clients and other stakeholders.
    • The commitments of external suppliers and contractors to your business.
    • What are the contractual or legal implications (e.g., penalties, lawsuits) for not meeting minimum service levels, or for non-performance of business agreements?
  • Chain of command
    • Make sure employees know who is next in line for management and decision-making.
    • 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 clients.

Understand the actions to take

  • Decide your goals for continuance or recovery of your business.
  • Identify short and long-term actions, and the resources needed.
  • Document the business continuity plan.
  • Prepare to overcome obstacles and manage COVID-19 related scenarios.
  • Choose flexible solutions. For example, pandemics arrive in waves so you may need to plan for smaller and larger absenteeism rates or periodic closures.
  • Make sure all employees know about the plan and their responsibilities within the plan.
  • Test the plan to make sure it will work (e.g., allow back-up personnel to run operations).
  • Review at least annually or when business needs, hazards, or regulations change.

Preparing for possible scenarios

What is the employer’s duty to accommodate?

Under occupational health and safety legislation, the employer is responsible for taking all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of their workers. This duty includes implementing and enforcing public health measures against COVID-19 (e.g., mask wearing, vaccination).

During the pandemic, scenarios have occurred where a worker may not be able to or might refuse to come into work or follow the required measures.

When a worker has a valid exemption (e.g., medical, religious, or other protected grounds), they may request accommodation. The employer and worker must cooperate to find a reasonable accommodation, to the point of undue hardship. Refer to the accommodation process for the jurisdiction your workplace is regulated under (e.g., federal, provincial, or territorial).

For general information on accommodation, refer to:

For more COVID-19 questions and scenarios, refer to:

What if a worker gets sick while at work?

Workers who are sick with COVID-19 have responsibilities to immediately report any symptoms, isolate, wear a mask (preferably a medical mask if available) and leave work as soon as possible. Refer to the Responding to Suspected or Confirmed Cases tab for guidance.

What happens if a worker refuses work because they believe the workplace is unsafe due to COVID-19?

Workers have the following three rights:

  1. The right to know about health and safety hazards, including potential exposure to COVID-19, and to be provided with the appropriate information, instructions, education, training, and supervision to do their job safely.
  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 unsafe work that could affect their health and safety and that of others.

The right to refuse is typically exercised only after other steps have not resolved the situation. For example, if a worker raised concerns about a lack of COVID-19 control measures, and the employer did not respond and make corrective actions.

If a worker has refused work that they feel is unsafe due to COVID-19 or any other hazard, then follow the existing work refusal process that has been established for your jurisdiction.

For more information refer to:

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

  • Workers 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 workers and are not necessarily entitled to this private information. However, the employer is entitled to receive sufficient information to provide effective accommodation.
  • Workers may choose to confidentially disclose their health status to employers so that accommodations can be made accordingly.
  • Reasonable accommodation may include flexible work arrangements such as working from home.
  • If alternative work options are not available, consider options for taking sick leave, a leave of absence, protected job leave, or other type of leave.

What if an employee cannot or refuses to wear a mask?

  • Wearing a mask may be mandated by the local public health authority or government. 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.
  • Masks are recommended when it is not possible to consistently maintain a 2-metre physical distance from others, particularly in crowded or indoor settings.
  • Make decisions about a mask policy in consultation with the health and safety committee or representative, workers, and union (if applicable).
  • Appropriate risk assessments must be done to ensure this requirement would not create new hazards (e.g., entanglement in moving machinery). Also review the workplace heat-stress program, as wearing a mask in hot environments while performing strenuous work could increase the worker’s metabolic load.
  • Workers with health-related concerns associated with wearing a mask (e.g., asthma and other breathing difficulties, disabilities, requiring help to use or remove a mask) may seek guidance from a medical professional, and request an exemption or accommodation.

What if a worker cannot or refuses to be vaccinated against COVID-19?

How to respond to mental health concerns? Coping and care during the pandemic

Change Management

Change is a normal part of doing business; however, the rate of change and degree of uncertainty have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are examples of changes associated with the pandemic that an employer may need to manage:

  • Planning: employers should update their emergency response and business continuity plans. In some jurisdictions, a written COVID-19 safety plan is mandatory.
  • Legal: new regulations and legislative mandates, such as mask wearing, stay-at-home orders, or gathering and occupancy limits.
  • Products and services: may be limited, unavailable, or need to be provided in new ways (e.g., online, delivery, curb-side pickup).
  • Global supply chain: extensive bottlenecks and delays, travel restrictions, and inflation could result in changes to the materials and suppliers used.
  • Policies and procedures: some will be newly created for pandemic-specific issues, while existing ones should be reviewed and updated as needed.
  • Infrastructure and technology: may need to be purchased and installed (barriers, hand-hygiene stations, remote communications hardware), modified (mechanical ventilations), or relocated (workstations, equipment) to support public health requirements.
  • Processes: the way work is done may need to be adjusted to reduce transmission risks.
  • Human resources: issues may include sick leave, worker shortages, downsizing, scheduling, cohorts, telework, mental health, and violence and harassment towards staff from the public.
  • Information: an increase in fact-based scientific knowledge about COVID-19 (as well as misinformation), available guidance on how to reduce the risk of transmission, and better understanding of the global impacts of a pandemic.
  • Hazard characteristics: the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) mutates as it spreads, potentially resulting in more transmissible or severe variants of concern (VOCs).
  • Vaccines: the availability and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines may lead to easing or changes of public health restrictions.

When changes are quickly made without first considering the potential impacts or managing the implementation process, it can result in unexpected problems, new hazards, loss of time and profit, and reduced success. Here are ways to help you be more successful in managing change in the context of COVID-19:

Be prepared

  • Understand that you may need to adapt quickly during a continually evolving situation.
  • Have a change management process in place.
  • Create a written procedure and change control forms to guide and document the process.
  • Identify who is responsible for assessing, approving, and implementing changes.
  • Routinely check for external changes and threats that may affect your workplace.

Clearly define the change and align it to business goals

  • Describe the change, why it is needed (e.g., public health orders), what it is meant to achieve (e.g., reduce COVID-19 risks), and how long it will be in place (e.g., temporary, permanent, or unknown).
  • List what is needed to implement the change (e.g., personnel, time, budget, resources).
  • Verify if the change reflects or conflicts with your workplace values or mission statement.

Determine what and who is affected

  • Identify the impact at all levels of the organization and business units.
  • List who and what will be affected by the change.
  • Assess if the change could create new health and safety or environmental hazards.
  • Make sure the affected people and teams are included in the change process.

Develop a communication strategy

  • Determine how and when the change will be communicated.
  • Decide on the key messages.
  • Use a variety of communication methods, in languages and formats appropriate and accessible to your audience (e.g., languages, age, reading level, disabilities).
  • Anticipate howl the change may be received by workers and clients.
  • Plan how to respond to feedback.

Provide effective training

  • Identify who needs training (e.g., managers, workers, external contractors, visitors).
  • Offer a variety of training methods (e.g., virtual and in-person).
  • Teach the skills and knowledge to operate as efficiently as possible as the change is rolled out.

Offer support

  • Change can be difficult and stressful, especially during a pandemic situation.
  • Give workers the tools, skills, and knowledge they need to successfully adjust to the change.
  • Offer counselling when appropriate.
  • Provide time for workers to ask questions as they arise and address their concerns.
  • Offer available support resources, such as an employee assistance program (EAP).

Measure the change process

  • Evaluate if the change met the intended goals.
  • If the change did not meet the goals, make further adjustments, or try a different approach.
  • Re-assess at regular intervals to make sure the change continues to be successful.
  • Evaluate if the change management process was successful.
  • If there are issues, decide what can be done differently next time.



Government of Canada

Document last updated on January 10, 2022

Responding to Suspected or Confirmed Cases

This guidance will help employers and workers to identify and respond to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in their workplace.

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

On this page

Planning, screening, and response


  • Follow local public health authority guidelines for COVID-19 screening and response.
  • Update existing emergency response and business continuity plans to include COVID-19 cases. Refer to the Emergency Response Plan, Business Continuity Plan, and Change Management tab for guidance.
  • Post your COVID-19 safety plan where it can be easily seen and read by workers and inspectors. The plan should describe how you will detect and respond to confirmed or suspected cases.
  • Designate the person(s) responsible for managing COVID-19 response (e.g., manager or supervisor, human resources, on-site nurse, health and safety coordinator, etc.)
  • Train all workers about your COVID-19 screening, reporting, and response process. Document the training.
  • Make sure that clients and visitors have also been informed about your process.
  • Prepare a designated room or seating area for isolation of suspected or confirmed cases.
  • Stock personal protective equipment (PPE) for first aid responders if direct care for an infected or symptomatic individual is unavoidable (e.g., respirators or medical/surgical masks, face shields, gloves, gowns, etc.).
  • Practice emergency drills for responding to a person with symptoms.
  • Develop a cleaning and disinfecting process for high-touch surfaces and objects that the individual who is sick may have used or touched.
  • Communicate company policies on workplace accommodation, sick leaves, and leaves of absence for workers.
  • Provide resources on mental health, including the prevention of stigma.


  • Screen everyone before they enter the workplace, by:
    • Asking all workers, clients, and visitors to self-screen for symptoms and potential exposures.
    • Posting notices outside the workplace asking people not to enter if they have symptoms or may have been exposed to COVID-19.
    • Using active screening such as verbal questions from a door attendant, or rapid test kits.
  • Do not allow symptomatic people or anyone failing the screening to enter the workplace.
  • Maintain a record of each person, their contact information, and date and time they were in the workplace to help with contact tracing.

Responding to a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19

Immediate Actions:

  • Report the case to the person(s) responsible for managing the COVID-19 response (e.g., manager or supervisor, human resources, on-site nurse, health and safety coordinator, etc.). Inform workers who are sick to not to come into work, even if their symptoms are mild. If the individual who is sick is already at work, then take the following actions:
    • Ask the individual to put on a mask immediately if they are not already wearing one (preferably a medical mask or respirator). Supply a mask if they do not have one.
    • Isolate the individual from others (e.g., in the designated isolation room or area), if they cannot immediately leave the workplace.
    • Call 911 if the individual has difficulty breathing or has other symptoms requiring immediate medical attention. Notify their emergency contact.
    • Send the individual home. Encourage them to avoid public transportation, taxis, carpooling or ridesharing services, if possible.
    • Ask anyone who is in close or direct contact with an individual who is sick to wear appropriate PPE, such as a respirator or medical/surgical mask, face shield, gown, and gloves.
    • Follow the cleaning and disinfection protocols, with a focus on the high-touch objects and surfaces the individual came into contact with.

Follow-up Actions:

  • Report the case to the local public health authority and other external agencies, as required. If requested, provide the contact tracing information that was collected during screening.
  • Contact the worker to confirm isolation requirements and when they are expected to return to work.
  • Inform the worker of company and government policies and benefits available to them (e.g., sick leave, leaves of absence, employment insurance, etc.).
  • Monitor for more workplace cases. Make sure other workers continue to self-monitor and encourage prompt reporting of symptoms.
  • Increase communication and provision of mental health resources to all workers.
  • Perform an incident investigation. Review and improve the COVID-19 control measures being used in the workplace, as needed.
  • Plan for alternate work arrangements and leaves of absence for the worker who is sick, as well as any other staff that were identified as having potential exposures or are at risk.

Other considerations

Employer reporting requirements

Role of external agencies

  • The local public health authority will:
    • Investigate clusters of cases associated with workplace locations.
    • Determine if an outbreak exists and when an outbreak is over.
    • Provide guidance and recommendations on outbreak response measures, investigation, and testing.
  • The workers compensation board will determine if a worker’s COVID-19 diagnosis is work-related and determine the appropriate benefits (e.g., health care, loss of earnings).
  • The occupational health and safety regulator will:
    • Inspect workplaces to monitor compliance with health and safety legislation.
    • Investigate reports and complaints related to worker health and safety, including unsafe work practices, occupational illness, critical injuries, fatalities, hazardous exposures, and work refusals. This may include investigation of notices of COVID-19 reported as an occupational illness.
    • Issue orders under applicable occupational health and safety legislation and take other enforcement actions as appropriate.

Disclosure of medical information

  • Maintain confidentiality as much as possible. Employers should not disclose any personal information to others, such as the identity and medical diagnosis of a worker who is sick.
  • Employers should be flexible and not overburden the health care system with requests for medical sick-leave notes from the worker’s medical care provider. Unnecessarily visiting medical offices increases risk of exposure for everyone.
  • A worker might be required to provide a medical note or other proof of a COVID-19 diagnosis to access certain sick-leave benefits. It is recommended to consult with the insurance benefits provider (private or government) on a case-by-case basis.

Return to work

  • Consider whether workers will be required to provide proof of a negative test result to return to work.
  • Follow the guidance for return-to-work provided by the worker’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.

Planning for worker absences due to isolation and quarantine

Situations requiring isolation or quarantine

Workers may be required to isolate or quarantine when they:

  • Are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Are awaiting COVID-19 test results.
  • Have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Have been exposed to someone who has or is suspected to have COVID-19.
  • Have been told by public health that they need to isolate or quarantine.
  • Are entering Canada and are not exempt.
  • Are entering a province or territory that requires non-residents or returning residents to isolate or quarantine.

Refer to your local public health authority and government for specific isolation and quarantine requirements, such as:

  • When it is mandatory
  • Duration (e.g., number of days),
  • Location (e.g., home, hotel, congregate housing, etc.), and
  • Any additional needs (e.g., testing, check-ins, provision of supplies and care, etc.).

For further guidance refer to:

What to consider when employees are in isolation/quarantine

  • Review options for the workers to work from home (e.g., telework, remote work), if they are in good health and able to perform work.
  • Follow company policies for absences from work (e.g., workers compensation, sick leave, long-term disability, etc.).
  • Inquire into government-approved leaves and financial support for workers and employers.
  • When informing others, keep the identity and diagnosis of the workers confidential.
  • Consult local public health authorities for further information on best steps to take.
  • Review your business continuity plan (e.g., replacing workers).

When travelling for work

  • Follow the current requirements of local and federal public health authorities for domestic and international travel, and entry into Canada.
  • Check for travel advisories before booking travel or leaving the country.
  • Use ArriveCANthis is a link to an external website to provide mandatory travel information before and after entry to Canada.
  • Be aware that COVID-19 testing and quarantine rules may vary by trip duration, mode of travel (land, ship, air), and location.
  • Some provinces and territories may also have internal travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.
  • It is recommended to carry an essential services worker letter (provided by employer on letterhead), proof of vaccination status, and recent COVID-19 test results when travelling.
  • Workers who are considered an essential service to Canada’s supply chain may be exempt from quarantine or testing when returning to Canada and are symptom-free (e.g., truck drivers). These workers should continue to self-monitor for symptoms and follow other individual public health measures (physical distancing, frequent hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and wearing a mask).



Government of Canada

Document last updated on January 10, 2022

Worker Orientation and Training

Effective orientation and training helps workers to understand the hazards that might impact their health and safety, and the control measures that are required to protect themselves and others. Existing worker orientation and training programs should be updated to include COVID-19.

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

On this page

Employer responsibilities

Employers in Canada have legal responsibilities relating to supervision, instruction, training, and education of workers, including to:

  • Make sure workers and supervisors understand the COVID-19 transmission hazards for their unique workplace and job activities, and how to protect themselves and others.
  • Assign competent supervision.
  • Work together with the health and safety committee or representative, and union (if applicable).
  • Monitor and implement current public health guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Enforce worker compliance with the control measures.
  • Take every reasonable precaution to protect the health and safety of workers.

Worker responsibilities

Workers in Canada also have legal responsibilities related to COVID-19, including to:

  • Follow public health guidelines and control measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Attend all orientation and training sessions as required by your employer.
  • Follow company safety rules and procedures.
  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) as required by your employer.
  • Exercise the workers ‘Right to Know’. Speak with your supervisor if you have questions or concerns.
  • Immediately report health and safety concerns or hazards to your employer or supervisor.
  • Self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, and immediately report if you are symptomatic or may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Developing a COVID-19 orientation and training program

The goal of an effective COVID-19 orientation and training program is to make sure that all workers (existing, new, temporary, contractors, etc.) are provided with the information they need to work safely during the pandemic.

When developing the content of the training, make sure that the source information is current and accurate. Refer to trusted sources of COVID-19 information such as your local public health authority, occupational health and safety regulator, government, and industry experts.

Use accessible formats and languages appropriate to your workers to make sure they understand the information provided. Consider using a variety of training methods.

Determine how you will evaluate how well the workers understand the information and requirements (e.g., with tests, observations, inspections). Document worker attendance at the orientation and training sessions as well as the evaluation results.

Update and repeat the training as often as needed (e.g., when new information on COVID-19 becomes available, there are changes to public health or workplace control measures, when policies and procedures are updated, or when lack of compliance is observed).

Contents of a COVID-19 orientation and training program

The program should include COVID-19 topics and information such as:

Characteristics and health effects of the hazard

  • A description of the hazard, i.e., “What is COVID-19?”.
  • The common symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Possible short or long-term medical outcomes.
  • How COVID-19 is spread (e.g., respiratory droplets and aerosols, direct contact, touching contaminated surfaces and objects).

Exposure risk factors

  • At work.
    • Assign responsibility for completion of the risk assessment. Consult with the health and safety committee or representative, workers that perform the tasks being evaluated, the union (if applicable), and other individuals competent in completing risk assessments.
  • Outside of work (e.g., at home and in the community).
    • Some workers may be at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of their household factors, public locations they frequent, transportation methods, and activities they participate in. These factors could increase the risk that they bring COVID-19 into the workplace.

Control Measures

  • Describe the control measures being used in the workplace. These controls may include public health preventive measures for individuals and communities, and other workplace control measures the employer has implemented.
  • The strengths and limitations of each different control measure. No single control measure alone is 100% effective against COVID-19. Using a ’layered approach’ with multiple control measures is important.
  • How to correctly use the COVID-19 control measures.
  • How to correctly and safely put on and take off, wear, care for, and store a face mask.
  • How to correctly use, wear, inspect, clean, store and replace personal protective equipment (e.g., respirators, gloves, gowns, face shields), especially when working with hazardous cleaning and disinfecting products, or when direct care of an infected or symptomatic individual is unavoidable.

COVID-19 response

  • How to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms and exposures.
  • What to do when they or another worker becomes sick or has been exposed.
  • How and when to report hazards to their supervisor.
  • When to self-isolate or quarantine.
  • Return to work process.

Other topics

  • Workers should know how to maintain control measures during a non- COVID-19 emergency event, such as a fire evacuation or shelter-in-place due to inclement weather. Communicate changes to existing emergency response procedures.
  • If the business continuity plan includes worker cross-training to provide coverage for absences, then workers should be properly trained to safely perform those tasks.
  • Resources available to workers (e.g., mental health resources, employee assistance programs, community resources, government pandemic assistance programs).
  • Company policies (e.g., workplace accommodation, sick leaves, leave of absences, vaccination).

Additional training considerations

Some individuals or teams may require additional training depending on their roles and responsibilities.

Managers and supervisors

  • How to monitor themselves and others for COVID-19 symptoms.
  • How to respond to a worker who reports symptoms while at work.
  • How and when to report confirmed or suspected cases to internal groups and external agencies, while protecting worker confidentiality.
  • What to do in the event of an outbreak.
  • Roles and responsibilities in emergency response and business continuity plans.
  • How to maintain operations and services during the pandemic.
  • Helping workers to access available resources.

Emergency response providers

  • How to manage fire drills and emergency events while promoting physical distancing and avoiding contact with high-touch surfaces.
  • How to safely provide care to a worker who become sick or injured at work if direct care is unavoidable.
  • Availability and storage locations of additional personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g., respirators or medical/surgical masks, face shields, gowns, gloves).
  • Training on the use, care, inspection, storage, cleaning, disinfecting and limitations of PPE.

Persons responsible for cleaning and disinfecting

  • Procedures on routine cleaning and disinfection.
  • How to deep clean and disinfect in response to a COVID-19 case.
  • Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) training on products used for cleaning and disinfecting.
  • How to safely handle, clean, or dispose of used cleaning materials (e.g., paper towels, rags and sponges, mops, gloves) that might be contaminated with the virus.
  • Availability of additional PPE (e.g., respirators, face shields, gowns, gloves).
  • Training on the use, care, inspection, storage, cleaning, disinfecting and limitations of PPE.



Government of Canada

Document last updated on January 10, 2022