COVID-19 Prevention for Workers

Protecting Yourself and Others

Everyone has a role to play in keeping people in the workplace healthy and safe. Workers can do their part to reduce the risks posed by COVID-19. Learn what you can do to stay safe while also protecting your co-workers, family, and community.

Two workers wearing masks who are collectively thinking about COVID-19 protective factors.

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I’m heading back to work. What can I expect?

During the pandemic, you may have been asked (or required) to work from home. Upon returning to the workplace, you may find that several changes have been made to protect workers from COVID-19. These may include:

  • The implementation of a written COVID-19 safety or operational plan (mandatory in some jurisdictions).
  • Control measures and procedures to help reduce exposure risks.
  • Changes to the workplace layout and equipment.
  • New procedures if you or a co-worker becomes unwell while at work or may have COVID-19.
  • New or updated workplace policies, such as for sick-leave, accommodation, and vaccination.
  • More frequent communication and training.

As the pandemic evolves, public health authorities will update guidance and requirements. Expect your employer to update workplace policies, procedures, and practices as public health requirements change.

What must my employer do to help protect me from COVID-19?

Under occupational health and safety (OHS) laws, employers must do everything possible under the circumstances to protect their workers from hazards, including measures related to COVID-19. They are responsible for putting control measures in place, informing workers about these measures, and making sure that workers comply.

Employers must:

  • Follow current requirements from the local public health authority, government, and occupational health and safety regulator. These requirements may be specific to their work sector or geographical region.
  • Provide you with education and training about:
    • Potential workplace hazards, including COVID-19.
    • The control measures being used to reduce COVID-19 transmission.
    • How to properly wear and care for any necessary personal protective equipment (PPE).
    • How to safely use cleaning and disinfecting products.
    • Your worker rights and responsibilities.
    • How to safely respond to emergencies while COVID-19 health measures are in effect.
  • Investigate health and safety complaints.
  • Conduct risk assessments. They must consult with the health and safety committee or representative, workers that perform the tasks, and other stakeholders when conducting risk assessments.
  • Make sure new measures do not create new hazards (e.g., keeping a fire door open, blocking emergency exits).
  • Evaluate changes to make sure that measures are protecting their workers and update them as needed.
  • Communicate any changes on how the organization will deliver goods and services (e.g., offer curbside pickup, or mandatory mask wearing during a massage).

What control measures can reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure?

Several control measures should be used in a layered approach, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission as much as possible. Some or all of these measures might be required in your workplace, depending on the industry and local pandemic conditions.


Unvaccinated people are at greater risk from COVID-19. Consider getting fully vaccinated and boosted to protect yourself. Being vaccinated may also protect your family, workplace, and community.

Benefits of getting vaccinated include:

  • Reduces the chance of becoming sick with COVID-19, if exposed.
  • Increases community immunity, which reduces community spread of COVID-19.
  • Reduces the chance of serious illness and hospitalization after becoming sick.

For more information visit:

Physical distancing

  • Keep in-person interactions with people from other households as few, brief, and at the greatest distance possible (at least 2 metres).
  • Maintain physical distancing whenever possible, including at workstations, break rooms, cafeterias, changerooms and employee entrances.
  • Follow work procedures and layout changes designed to increase and maintain distance between yourself and others (e.g., conducting in-office meetings in large spaces, spacing workstations or equipment further apart).
  • Physical barriers might be installed when distancing cannot be consistently maintained (e.g., using plexiglass or partitions higher than head height).
  • Follow one-way routes, signs, and other markings in the workplace, such as in corridors and stairwells.
  • Maintain physical distancing during evacuations and drills, when safe to do so.
  • Follow occupancy limits that are posted to control the number of people allowed in an indoor space or common area at the same time.
  • If you are assigned to a team or cohort where you will work with the same group of people and take breaks together, stay away from others outside your group.
  • Whenever possible work from home (telework). Use video-conferencing tools instead of in-person meetings.
  • For more information visit:


  • Inform your employer of any ventilation system issues in your work area (e.g., system no longer operating, unusual smells, temperature is too hot or cold).
  • Consult with your supervisor before adding a fans or heaters, opening or closing doors or windows, or adjusting thermostats to your workspace.
  • Check your work area to make sure air circulation vents are not blocked.
  • Do not operate or modify any equipment without obtaining permission and being trained (e.g., HVAC, air purifier units, air supply vents).
  • For more information visit:

Cleaning and disinfecting

  • If you are responsible for cleaning and disinfecting:
    • Follow a cleaning schedule.
    • Maintain cleaning records.
    • Dispose of garbage at least once a day. Wear disposable gloves when handling garbage.
    • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces (e.g., light switches, door handles, railings, controls) as often as required to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
  • When using shared equipment (e.g., desk, chair, vehicle, keyboard and mouse, equipment controls, tools, etc.), clean and disinfect before and after use.
  • Notify your supervisor or facility staff when washrooms or a common area requires cleaning or when cleaning supplies are running low.
  • Use cleaning and disinfectingthis is a link to an external website products that are effective against the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Read and follow the product manufacturer's safe use instructions (e.g., required PPE, use in well-ventilated area, follow contact time recommendations).
  • Make sure you know where to find or who to ask for the supplies and personal protective equipment you need to clean and disinfect safely.
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Good Hygiene Practices

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) when soap and water are not available.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands at appropriate times, such as:
    • At the start and end of your shift.
    • When re-entering the building.
    • Before eating, drinking, or smoking.
    • After touching shared items.
    • After using the washroom.
    • After handling garbage.
    • Before and after putting on or removing PPE or a mask.
  • Understand the limitations of hand sanitizer (e.g., may not be effective when hands are heavily soiled).
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, and mask with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid coughing or sneezing into your hands. Instead, cough and sneeze into the bend of your arm or cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Dispose of any used tissue into an appropriate waste bin right away and wash your hands.
  • Do not share items such as phones, tools, or equipment with others unless they are properly disinfected.
  • Do not drink from water fountains. Bring your own pre-filled water bottle instead. Do not share water bottles.
  • Do not share food or tableware (e.g., dishes, glasses, or utensils). Wash tableware before use, if shared.

Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Continue to use PPE for existing occupational safety hazards and emergencies, as required by your health and safety regulator or employers’ policy.
  • PPE may include fit-tested respirators, surgical masks, disposable gloves, gowns and aprons, eye protection (e.g., glasses, goggles, face shields), hearing protection (e.g., ear plugs or muffs) and safety footwear.
  • Situations where PPE may be considered for protection include when:
    • Using cleaning and disinfecting products as recommended by the manufacturer’s safe work instructions or safety data sheet.
    • Handling contaminated cleaning materials (paper towels, sponges, etc.), clothing, linens, and garbage.
    • Providing emergency first aid or cleaning up body fluids, including blood.
  • Participate in PPE education and training sessions. Know how to wear, remove, work with, and care for PPE, and understand their limitations.
  • Respirators and masks used as PPE must be properly fit tested for each individual user.
  • Understand the how to use PPE as source control, if required.
  • Avoid sharing PPE. In cases where they must be shared, clean and disinfect before and after you wear the PPE as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Wash hands before wearing and after removing gloves. Follow the appropriate steps for putting on and removing gloves according to infection control practices.
  • If eye protection is required, face shields or goggles may protect the eyes and face from splashes or spray from others. Wear them along with a mask to reduce the spread of the virus.
  • For more information visit:

Mask Wearing

  • Follow the mask wearing guidance of your local public health authority, employer, government, or health and safety authority.
  • If masks are not mandatory, determine for yourself if you should continue to wear one while at work as an added layer of protection.
  • Wear masks correctly. Masks should comfortably and completely cover your nose, mouth, and chin without gaps.
  • Avoid touching the outside of the mask while removing it.
  • Change your mask if it becomes wet or soiled. Bring spare masks in a clean container for this purpose. Store soiled reusable masks separate from clean masks.
  • Consider using a mask with a transparent window to communicate with people with hearing difficulties.
  • If you have medical concerns about wearing a mask, consult a medical professional for advice and work with your employer on possible solutions.
  • Do not wear a mask if you are unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • Make sure you understand how to care for and use your mask. Know the differences between respirators, surgical masks, and non-medical masks.
  • Make sure your mask is not a safety hazard while performing work tasks or activities, such as getting caught in moving machinery or equipment.
  • For more information visit:

What can I do to protect myself and others from COVID-19?

There are many actions you can take, both at work and at home, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

  • Follow the assessment guidance.

Where can I get more information?

Ask questions if you are unsure of what you need to do. You should immediately report any concerns to your employer. Ask for details about the control measures that are being put in place to protect workers and let your employer know if you feel unsafe. You can also speak with your health and safety committee or representative, or union.

For answers to frequently asked questions, refer to the COVID-19 Q&A for Workers tab and the COVID-19 FAQ.

Check guidance on COVID-19 often as the pandemic evolves. Learn more about Fact-Checking COVID-19 Information, to make sure that the guidance is trustworthy, applicable, and current.

Refer to reliable sources of information, including:

If you still have questions, contact CCOHS’ Safety Info-Line for direct, confidential assistance.

Document last updated on April 1, 2022

COVID-19 Q&A for Workers

Everyone has a role to play in keeping the workplace healthy and safe. As a worker, you may have specific questions and concerns about COVID-19 and how it affects your job. Learn what you can do to stay safe while also protecting your family, your co-workers, and the community. You can also visit our COVID-19 FAQ for more information.

Two workers wearing masks who are collectively thinking about COVID-19 protective factors.

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What are my health and safety rights when it comes to COVID-19?

You have three worker’s rights that continue to apply during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. The right to know about health and safety matters and potential workplace hazards, and to be provided with adequate information, instructions, education, training, and supervision to stay safe while doing your job.
  2. The right to participate in decisions that could affect your health and safety. You can participate on the health and safety committee, report concerns, and provide input.
  3. The right to refuse work that could affect your health and safety and that of others. Follow the work refusal process that has been established for your jurisdiction.

Note that “workers” includes all full-time and part-time employees, as well as anyone else who is performing work for (or on behalf of) the employer, such as volunteers and contractors.

What should I do if I’m concerned about my health and safety?

If you have health and safety concerns about the workplace or work processes:

  • Immediately report them to your manager or supervisor.
  • Employers are required to address unsafe workplace conditions in a timely manner. They may ask for your input.
  • If you feel the work is dangerous to yourself or other workers, you may have the right to refuse unsafe work.
  • It is important for you and your employer to follow the work refusal process.
    • During the work refusal process, you may be assigned different work. Another worker may be asked to take over for you, but they must be informed of the work refusal.
    • Once the issue is resolved or addressed, the work refusal process is complete, and you can resume working. If the issue is not resolved, proceed to the next stage of the work refusal.
    • If you have reasonable grounds to believe the work remains unsafe, do not resume working. At this stage an inspector from your regulator should be contacted to investigate the issue. The investigation will result in a written decision. The decision may conclude the work is safe or may require changes to make the work safe. If the work is deemed safe by the inspector, the work refusal process is complete, and you must resume working.
  • The employer must work with you, the committee, representative, or regulator and provide responses in a timely manner. Changes (if necessary) must also be completed within a reasonable time frame.
  • Each Canadian jurisdiction (federal, provincial, and territorial) has a work refusal process.

Can my employer make it a requirement to wear a mask?

Wearing masks may be mandated by local government or public health authorities based on the local COVID-19 situation.

Under occupational health and safety legislation, your employer is 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 masks, it may be reasonable for your employer to make this a requirement in your workplace as well, even if it is not a public space.

Your employer will make decisions in consultation with the health and safety committee or representative, and workers. Risk assessments must be done to make sure that wearing a mask would not cause any other occupational hazards.

If you have health-related concerns about wearing a mask, get guidance from a medical professional, work with your employer to come to a solution. Determine if there are other arrangements that can be made (such as working from home, installing physical barriers, rearranging workstations).

What should I do if I have stress and anxiety about returning to work?

What if I do not want to go to work because I am at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19?

  • You may need to consult with your health care professional and provide some information to your employer for a medical accommodation request to be properly evaluated.
  • Talk with your supervisor about your concerns. Your health and safety representative or union can also provide you with guidance and support.
  • Work with your employer to identify any steps that may be needed for a safe return to work.
  • Your employer must maintain confidentiality as much as possible and not disclose any personal information to others, including your medical diagnosis.
  • Ask your employer about your options for a leave of absence, if necessary. Apply to available financial support programsthis is a link to an external website or employment insurance. Availability and eligibility requirements may change as the pandemic situation changes.

Document last updated on April 1, 2022