Employers who haven’t yet defined a COVID-19 reopening plan or COVID-19 return-to-work guidelines are potentially putting their operations, employees, and customers at risk. While the government hasn’t made it a mandate for businesses to have COVID-19 guidelines, it’s recommended and strongly so. Here’s a little bit into what an employer’s responsibility is in maintaining safety for their assets, operations, employees, and clients.

Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S)

OH&S dictates employers’ duty to prioritize and protect the health and safety of their workers. Preventative measures should be taken to minimize risk and ensure workers aren’t exposed to conditions harmful to their health. This is the case for COVID-19 and no COVID-19. A failure to maintain strong OH&S standards could mean fines, penalties, and even criminal prosecutions. Workplaces have to do their part in limiting the spread of coronavirus in Canada.

Following Government Guidelines on Who Can Be Open

Businesses who have gone against government guidelines around return to workplace from COVID-19 have seen fines and penalties. This isn’t the type of move to make. There’s a lot at risk.

Consulting Health and Safety Representatives

Some employers are fortunate to have health and safety representatives or health and safety committees. Tap into this resources. If possible, seek the opinion of employees on what they’d want to see for COVID-19 protections. Throughout this course, an employer should identify hazards, possible transmission opportunities, and ways to control the exposure.

Ongoing Monitoring of Effectiveness

There is no long-term solution to doing business in the COVID-19 pandemic. Monitor your efforts. Consider a reassessment of workplace hazards and policies. There are three areas to focus on with this ongoing management:

  • Physical engineering – such as physical distancing efforts and physical barriers.
  • Administrative controls – such as policies and procedures that reduce the risk of virus transmission.
  • The use of PPE, including non-medical disposable face masks and face shields.

Why Physical Distancing is Key

More than anything, the most effective practice at limiting the spread of COVID-19 is social distancing. In a workplace, this isn’t always possible of course. That said, there are some things employers can do.

  • Limit the number of employees or customers in the workplace.
  • Rearranging workspaces and floor plans to create more separation between people.
  • Adjusting scheduling so that start/end times and breaks reduce the number of people using common rooms i.e. bathrooms, kitchens, and elevators.
  • Installing physical barriers.

Regular Cleaning

It is wholly an employer’s responsible to enact adequate cleaning, sanitation, and disinfecting controls. Encourage regular hand-washing by employees and provide hand sanitizer. Use procedures to clean high-contact surfaces such as doors, handles, faucets, keyboards, and equipment that’s shared. Prevent sick employees from coming into work. Consider measuring temperatures at the beginning of each shift to confirm there are no symptomatic carriers at work.

Hand sanitizer

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