HEALTH/SAFETY POLICY QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER FOR THE WORKPLACE DURING COVID-19
WHAT ARE MY OBLIGATIONS AS THE EMPLOYER? As the employer, you are obligated to provide a safe workplace. Being careless or negligent with workplace safety is a hazard for your staff and the public and is not acceptable. It also can be costly for your business. If a staff member contracts COVID-19 and you do not have proper safety measures in place, that could expose your business to an investigation, charges, or even a lawsuit.
Below are a few question to start asking yourself in order to prepare for a safe workplace in the time of COVID-19.
1. WHERE IS THE WORKPLACE: Do your staff just work at the office? Or are they out in the community doing service provision? Are your staff using company (or personal) vehicles? Are there other locations your staff attend at while working? In developing your workplace policies for COVID-19, be sure to consider all the places that your staff will be throughout the workday. Make sure your policies are appropriate for your workplace.
2. WHO DO YOUR STAFF INTERACT WITH? Do your staff work alone? If staff need to work with each other, and is physical distancing possible? Do staff deal with the public or others during the workday? Consider all of the interactions that your staff will have while on the job, and determine how your policies will address all of these interactions to ensure the safety of your employees.
3. WORK FROM HOME? Is this an option for some/all of your staff? What equipment will they need? Are you able to provide a work computer or do you expect your employees to use their own? How are you ensuring your company’s private information is adequately protected? Do they have access to secure internet?
4. PPE &CLEANING SUPPLIES: What will you need? Where will you get it? How will you get enough? If your workplace is open or is planning on opening, consider how you are going to clean and decontaminate the space. Is your usual supplier stocked to provide you with the cleaning supplies you will need? What extra equipment will you need, for example, portable hand sanitizing stations and/or sinks.
Are masks, gloves or other PPE appropriate for your workplace? Will you be providing these to staff, and where will you get them? How will you be training staff on proper mask/glove use so that your employees are safe and do not inadvertently contaminate themselves/the workplace. Where will you source other equipment or fixtures, such as plexiglass barriers?
5. WHAT GUIDELINES ARE AVAILABLE FOR MY WORKPLACE?
- Ministry of Health, Ministry of Long-Term Care: Visit their website for sector specific guidelines, including guidelines for healthcare facilities, childcare centres, essential services, shelters, food premises and more. This site also has fact sheets and information about how to talk to children about the pandemic, as well as resources for people with mental health and addiction issues.
- Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development: Another source of sector-specific guidelines to help protect workers and keep workplaces safe. The Ministry provides some sector-specific guidelines, as well as many posters that can be printed and posted throughout the workplace.
The site also includes links to the websites of four major workplace health and safety associations: The Infrastructure Health and Safety Association, the Public Service Health and Safety Association, Workplace Safety North, and Workplace Safety and Prevention Services. From these associations are links to sector and practice specific guidelines, such as guidelines for sales and customer service reps, guidelines for sharing tools, vehicle cleaning, grocery store workers etc. This is a fantastic resource worth checking out.
- Thunder Bay District Health Unit: Our local health unit has excellent information for businesses and workplaces. The site also has COVID-19 Stop Germs- Infection Prevention and Control Measures, with information about screening, handwashing, coughing, environmental cleaning and physical distancing. Posters on handwashing, cleaning and germ spread are also available on the site in different languages, and posters on handwashing and covering coughs/sneezes are available in Ojibway, Cree and Ojicree.