Provincial COVID-19 Screening Requirement
On September 25th, 2020, the Ontario government announced a new mandatory workplace COVID-19 screening requirement as per the Ontario Regulation 364/20. The person responsible for the business or organization must comply with the advice, recommendations, and instructions of the Chief Medical Officer of Health on implementing a COVID-19 screening tool in their workspaces.
From construction sites to offices and retail spaces to manufacturing floors, all businesses must screen employees. All workers and essential visitors who enter a work environment fall under the regulation.
The Ontario COVID-19 Screening regulation stipulates two main components:
- A verification process must be in place to confirm that screening is taking place as required by employers.
- Organizations or businesses must screen a worker or essential visitor before they enter a space.
- For example, before entering an office, a visitor should complete the screening.
- Employers are also required to screen their employees at the beginning and end of their shifts, every day.
There are three questions which must be answered as part of the screening process disclosing:
- If they have any new or worsening symptoms, or signs, of those listed in the Ontario COVID-19 Screening tool;
- Have they traveled outside of Canada in the past 14 days;
- If they have had close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.
What happens if the answer to any of the mandatory screening tool questions is ‘Yes’?
- If they answer yes to any of the questions, the employer must deny entry of that individual into the workplace.
- They should not enter any type of workspace, including outdoor or partially covered workspaces.
- They must also instruct the employee to go directly home, begin the process of self-isolation for 14 days, and contact their health care provider or Telehealth Ontario to determine testing requirements.
- After contacting your employee, the public health unit will perform case management and contact tracing procedures that may also require additional infection prevention and control measures, or IPAC.
While the Ontario government does not require employers to keep records, it is wise to do so. Why? To prove compliance with the regulations, and backtrack on who has entered and left the building on a particular day, if an outbreak occurs. Logs are suggested; however, organizations will need to address privacy-related concerns and PIPEDA requirements given the sensitive nature of personal health information.
What tools exist for organizations to screen for COVID-19 in their workplace?
- The Ontario Government’s self-assessment tool
- In-person reporting processes at the workplace entrance
- Dynamic COVID-19 Screening Tools
These are some questions for business owners helpful in assessing the risk of COVID-19 in their workplace or business:
- Are employees required to be in close contact with clients or other employees throughout their shifts? Are clients in close contact with other clients?
- Do employees have prolonged contact with other employees or clients? (Prolonged contact meaning more than 15 minutes, and may be cumulative)
- Is your business or workplace crowded on a regular basis?
- Are you working in an indoor or outdoor environment? If indoor, can more ventilation be established such as opening a window?
- Do employees or clients have frequent contact with “high-touch surfaces”? (think door handles, service counters, debit machines)
- Are employees and clients able to access hand hygiene stations or supplies?
Addressing the stigma associated with the pandemic
- Tackle microaggressions that might arise as everyday verbal and non-verbal snubs and insults of hostile, derogatory, and negative nature
- Continue to be mindful when interacting with others, the language we use and actions we take can generate false assumptions and harm someone else’s wellbeing
- Encourage employees to report any violence or harassment that occurs in the workplace, everyone has a role to play
- Keep in touch with coworkers or acquaintances who have been affected by COVID-19: acknowledge the impact on the team, productivity, etc.
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