To reduce the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on businesses, workers, customers and the public, it is important for employers to act, and plan for other possible, future contagions. For employers, who have already prepared for influenza pandemics, action for COVID-19 may involve updating plans to address specific exposure risks, sources of exposure, routes of transmission and other unique characteristics of SARS-CoV-2, (i.e. compared to pandemic influenza viruses). Employers who have not prepared for pandemic events should prepare themselves, their workers and workplaces as far in advance as possible for potentially worsening outbreak conditions.
Lack of continuity planning can result in a cascade of failures as employers attempt to address challenges of a contagion such as COVID-19, including insufficient resources and workers who aren't adequately trained for jobs they may have to perform under pandemic conditions.
This support policy contains recommendations to include in a company's mandatory occupational safety and health manual. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content, and intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthy workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to comply with health and safety standards and regulations and, under Section 25 (2)(h) requires employers to provide employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
This policy may be reproduced, acknowledging Workplace Safety Group as the source.
Workplace Safety Group developed this COVID-19 policy based on traditional infection control and industrial hygiene practices. It focuses on the need for employers to implement engineering, administrative, work-practice and personal protective equipment (PPE) controls.
This guide is intended for planning purposes. Employers, supervisors and workers should use this planning guide to help identify risk levels in the workplace and to determine appropriate control measures. Additional guidance may be needed as COVID-19 conditions change, including newly released information about the virus, its transmission and impact. Further consideration should be given for the enhancement of the policy regarding:
- A requirement for employees to notify their manager if they, or someone with whom they reside plans to, or has recently travelled to/from an area subject to a Government of Canada travel health notice;
- A requirement that employees who have, or suspect that they have a communicable illness, seek appropriate medical treatment and follow recommendations of their medical professional, particularly as it relates to remaining home from work, self-isolation, quarantine or other measures designed to prevent the spread of illness;
- A requirement that employees remain away from the workplace for the period of time recommended by medical professionals, and a related right of the employer to enforce that requirement for ill employees and those who have been exposed to a communicable illness where that restriction is necessary to protect other employees;
Workplace Safety Group safety advisors are available to assist businesses in implementing engineering, administrative and work-practice controls and personal protective equipment (PPE).