May 27, 2020

The COVID-19 Workplace

What safety precautions should be implemented to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace?

The exact COVID-19 transmission precautions required depend upon the likelihood of exposure in the workplace. To determine the risk, a workplace hazard assessment should be conducted, particular to the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Some workplaces (such as those in the health care and emergency services sector) are at higher risk than others. 

In most workplaces, reasonable precautions to reduce risk of transmission include: 

  • 1- Ensuring that the workplace is clean and hygienic. Commonly touched surfaces and areas should be sanitized and workers should avoid sharing equipment where possible.
    • avoiding crowded places and non-essential gatherings (i.e., conduct virtual meetings, rather than in- person meetings); 
    • avoiding common greetings, such as handshakes; 
    • limiting contact with people at higher risk (e.g. older adults and those in poor health); 
    • keeping a distance of at least two arm’s lengths (approximately two metres) from others, as much as possible; 
  • 2- Further workplace measures to assist in physical distancing may include: 
    • staggering start times, breaks, and meal breaks; 
    • closing or restricting numbers of people in areas where people gather, such as elevators, lunch rooms and meeting rooms; 
    • limiting unnecessary contact between workers and the public. 
  • 3- Promoting good respiratory hygiene in the workplace by providing face masks or paper tissues and rubber gloves. 
  • 4- Placing hand sanitizers prominent locations. 
  • 5- Eliminating non-essential business travel. 
  • 6- Reducing the risk of employee to employee transmission by: 
    • having the employee self-monitor, avoid crowded places and physically distance, even if they have no history of possible exposure to COVID-19; 
    • sending the employee home for isolation if the employee has a diagnosis of COVID-19, any of the symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, coughing, difficulty breathing), or is waiting on the results of a lab test for COVID-19; and 
    • sending the employee home to self-isolate for 14 days and instructing them to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms if the employee has no symptoms but has a history of possible exposure to COVID-19 due to close contact with a person that has been diagnosed with COVID-19. 
  • 7- For hand-outs that may be given to employees see the Government of Canada’s: 
  • Know the Difference: Self-monitoring, self-isolation and isolation for COVID-19
  • How to isolate at home when you have COVID-19
  • How to care for a person with COVID-19 at home: Advice for caregivers; and 
  • For travellers without symptoms returning to Canada
  • 8- Having the employee work from home, if possible. 
  • 9- Checking the Government of Canada and the Infection Prevention and Control Canada websites regularly for updated information on the transmission and prevention of the COVID-19. 
  • 10- Checking the jurisdiction’s health and safety agencies for best practice guidance related to COVID-19. 

In workplaces where there is higher risk of transmission, additional precautions may be necessary.