Last updated: November 27, 2020 at 11:50 a.m.

Read Toronto Public Health’s Guidance for Employers on Preventing COVID-19 in the Workplace (also available below) and Guidance for Employers on Managing COVID-19 in the Workplace (also available below). Also read the COVID-19 Decision Guide for Workplaces and the Four Step Public Health Planning Guide for Reopening Toronto Businesses and Workplaces during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Planning Guide for Businesses identifies issues and critical elements of emergency preparedness that organizations should consider in planning for a pandemic.

Read also Public Health Ontario’s guidance on cleaning and disinfection for public settings, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks guide for maintaining building plumbing after an extended vacancy and the American Water Works Association’s framework for responding to water stagnation in buildings with reduced or no water use.

Download printable posters and information cards for your setting to share messages about how to stay safe during COVID-19.

Learn about supports available for businesses.

 

As health authorities around the world take action to contain the spread of COVID-19, employers must also play a role in stopping the spread of this disease. This guidance document describes the requirements of employers as per provincial regulations and local orders and directives. It also provides simple strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace to keep everyone safe. These strategies can and should be adapted to meet the unique needs of every workplace. Additional guidance for various sectors are found in the Other Resources section at the end of this document.

Toronto is currently in the grey – lockdown level of the provincial government’s COVID-19 Response Framework. New measures businesses and workplaces should be aware of include:

  • All workplaces are required to prepare and make available a safety plan. See below for details.
  • Businesses must ensure that the number of persons occupying any room that is open to the public does not exceed 50 per cent of the capacity of the particular room.
  • See Reg. 82/20 Schedule 2 and 3 for a list of businesses that may open at this time and applicable conditions.

General Guidance

  • Visit our website at ca/COVID19 often, as information changes frequently.
  • Develop strategies to minimize exposure to COVID-19.
  • Provide staff training on the required public health measures.
  • Limit number of staff, clients and customers in indoor settings to allow for physical distancing.
  • Schedule frequent cleaning and disinfection of high-touch items, surfaces, and washrooms.
  • Inform staff, clients and customers about actions you are taking to keep everyone safe.
  • Review the Guidance for Employers on Managing COVID-19 in the Workplace to plan and implement protocols to keep staff and customers safe.

Roles and Responsibilities of the Employer and Employee during COVID-19

Employer Responsibilities Employee Responsibilities
  • Keep workers and workplaces safe and free of hazards.
  • Read the guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act to understand all of your health and safety rights and responsibilities.
  • Understand COVID-19 risks.
  • Control COVID-19 risks in the workplace.
  • Develop a COVID-19 workplace safety plan.
  • Comply with any advice, recommendations and instructions by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and City of Toronto bylaws relevant to your organization.
  • Refuse unsafe work and promptly report the circumstances to your employer or supervisor.
  • Understand and follow your employers’ workplace health and safety directions (e.g., use or wear the personal protective equipment that your employer requires).
  • Follow direction from public health officials.
  • Report any circumstance in the workplace that is likely to be hazardous to the health or safety of others in the workplace. This includes reporting one’s own potential exposure to COVID-19 that caused or is likely to cause illness to another person.

Safety Plan

  • All businesses and workplaces are required to prepare and make available a safety plan. This safety plan must:
    • Be available on or before November 30, 2020.
    • Describe measures/procedures that have been or will be implemented in the business, place, facility or establishment to reduce spread of COVID-19.
    • Include measures for screening, physical distancing, masks, cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and objects, and the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE).
    • Be in writing and made available to any person for review on request.
    • Be posted in a visible place to come to the attention of those working or attending the location.

Health Screening for Staff and Customers

The person responsible for the business or organization must comply with any advice, recommendations, and instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health on screening for COVID-19 (O Reg 82/20).

  • Staff must complete a health screening questionnaire before each shift. The questions can be completed on paper, online or by asking staff directly.
  • Screening should occur before or when a worker enters the workplace at the beginning of their day or shift, or when an essential visitor arrives.
  • If staff become sick with COVID-19 symptoms while at work, they should go home right away and self-isolate. Instruct them to call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000, their health care provider or an Assessment Centre to get tested.
  • Ask all clients and customers to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms prior to entry to your workplace or business. Display posters at entrances informing people that they must not enter if they have symptoms.

Staff Attendance and Operations

  • Keep a list of the names and contact information of all staff, workers and essential visitors who enter the workplace, including for in-person meetings or events. This will support contact tracing.
    • This information must be kept for 30 days and then shredded.
    • This information must be provided to Toronto Public Health upon request.
      Note: Some businesses which have patrons entering for limited exceptions are also required to maintain contact information for all patrons/visitors who enter their facility, including:
    • Meeting and event spaces.
    • Concert venues, theatres and cinemas.
    • Indoor and outdoor sports and recreational fitness facilities.
  • Remind staff about the importance of staying home when they are sick and reporting illness to their supervisor/manager.
  • Have a flexible sick policy so staff do not come to work when they are ill.
  • Use the COVID-19 Decision Guide for Workplaces to determine when it is safe to return to work.
  • Toronto Public Health does not recommend that employers require clearance testing or doctor’s notes for return to work.
  • Make plans to operate with different levels of employee absenteeism due to illness, ill-dependants, or for child care during school closures.
  • Plan business functions, jobs, roles and critical elements within your business that are essential or critical when public health restrictions are in place, or if staffing levels are reduced.
  • Non-essential work travel should be avoided.
  • Travellers entering Canada must self-isolate for 14 days after they return from travel anywhere outside of Canada, including the United States.
  • Healthy individuals that cross the border and are performing an essential job or function are exempt from self-isolation under the Quarantine Act, but they must self-monitor for symptoms.
  • Review the Guidance for Employers on Managing COVID-19 in the Workplace to know what to do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19.

Promote Physical Distancing

  • Staff should keep at least two metres/six feet from other staff and clients as much as possible.
    • Masks and physical barriers provide added layers of protection, but are not substitutes for physical distancing.
  • Limit the number of staff and contractors present at the workplace at any given time.
    • Cancel or hold virtually all in-person activities that are discretionary.
    • Offer and promote teleworking options wherever possible.
    • Host virtual meetings.
    • Enable flexible work hours and schedules.
    • Stagger work shifts and breaks to reduce gathering in common areas (e.g. entrance, lunch room, locker room).
    • Assign staff to groups that are physically separated in different areas or have rotating schedules, if possible, so that groups do not mix at any time.
    • Assign workstations and equipment to a single user if possible, or limit the number of users.
    • Post signs with the number of people allowed into the premise and within each room/space.
  • Encourage staff who carpool to limit the number of passengers in their car, not to drive or ride if they are sick, and to follow public health guidance for taxis and ride-share vehicles.
  • Modify services to reduce the number of customers present at the same time:
    • Provide services online or by phone whenever possible.
    • Offer mail, product or curb-side delivery, and follow contact-less delivery practices.
  • Modify and manage the physical space to promote physical distancing:
    • Remove surplus furniture and supplies from rooms and walkways to allow ease of movement while maintaining physical distancing.
    • Move or tape off furniture in lunch rooms, meeting rooms, etc. so staff or customers cannot sit within two metres/six feet from each other.
    • Close off alternate work stations and/or customer service windows/check-outs where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
    • Use visual markers (e.g. tape on the floor, pylons, signs) to remind people where to stand to keep two metre/six foot distance from others (e.g. on a production line).
    • In spaces where physical distancing is not possible, and close contact between staff and clients is unavoidable, install protective barriers (e.g. plexiglass). The height of the barrier should take into account the tallest user and should consider the user’s breathing zone, which generally extends 30 centimeters or 12 inches around (and above) the mid-point of a person’s face.
    • Use outdoor space whenever possible.
  • Manage employee and customer lines. Operators are required to ensure that customers maintain two metres/six feet physical distance from others and wear a mask or face covering while in line.
  • Post physical distancing signs at all entrances, employee rooms, elevators, and public areas (e.g. cashiers, service counters).

Encourage Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette

  • Post Wash your Hands, Cover your Cough, Protect Yourself signs in high traffic areas.
  • Provide hand sanitizer (70-90% alcohol concentration) by entrances and throughout the facility.
  • Ensure an adequate supply of liquid soap, paper towel, hand sanitizer, tissues, and waste receptacles throughout the workplace, and in washrooms.
  • Glove use is not a substitute for proper hand hygiene.
    • If gloves are used, it is important to change them every hour, or more often, as necessary  (e.g. when changing tasks).
    • Hands should be washed and/or sanitized between changes.
    • When gloves are removed, new gloves must be used each time.
  • Educate staff on proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

Enhance Cleaning and Disinfection

  • Schedule enhanced environmental cleaning and disinfection practices.
  • Cleaners break down grease and other organic material from surfaces. Most regular household cleaning products are effective at reducing the amount of germs on surfaces.
  • Disinfectants kill germs that remain on surfaces even after cleaning.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces at least twice a day and more frequently as needed. High-touch surfaces include items such as door handles, counters, cabinet doors, elevator buttons, light switches, faucets, toilet handles, hand rails, touch screen surfaces, and keypads.
  • Equipment and tools that must be shared should be cleaned and disinfected regularly, including between users (e.g. cashier’s stations, machinery). If staff are separated into assigned groups, clean and disinfect shared spaces between rotating groups.
  • Review Public Health Ontario’s Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings fact sheet.
  • Look for cleaning and disinfectant products with an 8-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN) to confirm it is approved for use in Canada.
  • Cleaning/disinfection wipes should only be used for surfaces, and according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation when using products (e.g. open windows, doors, or use fans).
  • Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water immediately after cleaning the setting.
  • Educate staff on how to maintain a clean workplace during COVID-19, including:
    • Proper use of cleaning agents and disinfectants, including required disinfectant contact times (amount of time that the product needs to remain wet on a surface to work effectively).
    • Safety precautions and requirements for use of mask and gloves.

Masks/Face Coverings for Staff, Clients and Customers

The use of non-medical masks or face coverings is required in all indoor spaces, under a new City of Toronto bylaw and O. Reg. 82/20.

  • The City bylaw requires that businesses with indoor spaces that are open to the public must develop a policy and protocols on the wearing of masks. Refer to the guidance on mask and face covering bylaw for a sample policy.
  • Operators must ensure that any person in the indoor area of the business or organization, or in a vehicle that is operating as part of the business or organization, wears a mask or face covering in a manner that covers their mouth, nose and chin during any period when they are in the indoor area.
  • Mask/face coverings do not need to be worn by employees in indoor areas if:
    • the area is not accessible to members of the public, and
    • employees are able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres/six feet from every other person.
  • Not all clients or customers are able to tolerate a mask and may be exempted. For example, masks should not be used by children under age two, and anyone who has trouble breathing.
  • Other exemptions include temporary removal of a mask to receive certain services (e.g. during a dental exam) and for emergency or medical purposes.
  • Consider alternative ways to provide services to those who are unable to wear a mask (e.g. provide services at the end of the day when other customers are not present, use barriers such as plexiglass, and maintain physical distance when possible).
  • Appropriate personal protective equipment that covers the eyes, nose and mouth must be worn if, while providing service in an indoor area, the person:
    • is required to come within two metres of another person who is not wearing a mask or face covering; and
    • is not separated by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier from a person described above.
  • If possible, provide disposable masks for clients or customers who have not brought their own.
  • Train staff on these new requirements, including who is exempt and the proper use of a cloth mask or face covering.

Maintain Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Systems

  • Increase the introduction and circulation of outdoor air by maximizing the outdoor air ratio of the HVAC system settings, or by opening windows and doors, where possible. Avoid recirculating air.
  • Ensure the HVAC system(s) are properly maintained.
  • Where provided, use the highest efficiency filters that are compatible with the HVAC system.
  • Increase air-exchanges if possible.
  • Keep areas near HVAC inlets and outlets clear.
    • Seating should be arranged away from areas with high airflow (i.e. not in front of air vents).
  • Facilities without HVAC systems should increase ventilation by opening windows and doors. However, do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety risk to staff and customers.
  • Rooms where ceiling fans are used should have an upward airflow rotation.
  • If portable fans are used, limit the blowing of air across people and surfaces by positioning them to provide an upward movement of air.
  • There is no evidence for the use of portable air purifiers to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If used, follow the manufacturer’s directions (and possibly the advice of a service professional) to decide where best to place the device. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on maintenance.
  • For more information, review the COVID-19: Transmission, Aerosols and Ventilation fact sheet.

Communication

  • Inform staff and customers about the measures being taken to protect them against COVID-19.
  • Encourage staff and customers to download the COVID Alert app so they can be notified directly if they have been in close contact with someone who was contagious with COVID-19.
  • Display information throughout your setting to promote messages about how to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, including COVID-19: Spread the Word and COVID-19 Fact Sheet.

Other Resources

As health authorities around the world take action to contain the spread of COVID-19, employers must also play a role in stopping the spread of this disease. This guidance document provides simple strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace to keep everyone safe. The strategies can and should be adapted to meet the unique needs of every workplace. Additional guidance for various sectors are found in the Other Resources section at the end of this document.

General Guidance

  • Visit our website at ca/COVID19 often as information changes frequently.
  • Review the Guidance for Employers on Preventing COVID-19 in the Workplace to plan and implement protocols to keep staff and customers safe, including:
    • Health screening for staff and customers
    • Staff attendance and operations
    • Promoting physical distancing
    • Encouraging hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
    • Enhancing cleaning and disinfection
    • Masks/face coverings for staff, clients and customers
    • Maintain heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems
    • Communication

Roles and Responsibilities of the Employer and Employee during COVID-19

Employer Responsibilities Employee Responsibilities
  • Keep workers and workplaces safe and free of hazards.
  • Read the guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Actto understand all of your health and safety rights and responsibilities.
  • Understand COVID-19 risks.
  • Control COVID-19 risks in the workplace.
  • Develop a COVID-19 workplace safety plan.
  • Comply with any advice, recommendations and instructions by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and City of Toronto bylaws relevant to your organization.
  • Refuse unsafe work and promptly report the circumstances to your employer or supervisor.
  • Understand and follow your employers’ workplace health and safety directions (e.g. use or wear the personal protective equipment that your employer requires).
  • Follow direction from public health officials.
  • Report any circumstance in the workplace that is likely to be hazardous to the health or safety of others in the workplace. This includes reporting one’s own potential exposure to COVID-19 that caused or is likely to cause illness to another person.

Support the Employee with COVID-19

  • Ensure you have policies that support employees who need to be absent from work due to illness or being a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • Employees are responsible to report COVID-19 illness to their employer if it is likely to cause illness to another person in the workplace.
  • If an employee discloses to you that they have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or have been exposed to a person with COVID-19, confirm that they are self-isolating.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that may have been touched by an employee with COVID-19 as soon as possible.
  • Use the COVID-19 Decision Guide for Workplaces to determine when it is safe to return to work.
  • Employees should not return to work until after the required self-isolation period:
    • Individuals with COVID-19 must self-isolate for 10 days from the day their symptoms started. They should no longer have a fever, and their symptoms should be improving for at least 24 hours. If they did not have any symptoms of COVID-19 at or around the time of testing, they must self-isolate for 10 days after the test was performed.
    • Individuals with severe illness may require longer self-isolation periods, as directed by Toronto Public Health.
    • Individuals who have been identified as close contacts must self-isolate for 14 days after their last exposure to the person with COVID-19.
  • Toronto Public Health does not recommend that employers require clearance testing or doctor’s notes for return to work.

Contact Tracing in the Workplace

  • Toronto Public Health interviews each person with COVID-19 as soon as possible to ensure they are self-isolating, and helps them to identify people who may have been exposed while they were contagious, including in the workplace.
    • A person with COVID-19 is contagious from 48 hours before symptoms start until the end of their self-isolation period, usually 10 days after symptoms began.
    • If someone tested positive for COVID-19 but did not have symptoms, they are considered to be contagious from 48 hours before the test to 10 days after the test.
    • Example: If an employee develops a fever and cough on September 4 and tests positive for COVID-19, they would be considered contagious between September 2 and September 14. Anyone the employee interacted with during this time would be considered exposed.
  • Toronto Public Health will help individuals with COVID-19 to identify who is a close contact and provide a letter for them to give to the close contact instructing them to self-isolate for 14 days from the last time they interacted with the person who tested positive, and recommend that they also get tested.
  • Close contacts (or higher risk contacts) include staff, visitors or patrons who were within two metres/six feet of the person with COVID-19, with or without a mask, for approximately 15 minutes or more, or who had direct contact with that individual while they coughed or sneezed.
    • Examples: Having lunch or a drink with co-worker at the same table sitting less than two metres/six feet apart; staff that are unable to keep distance due to the job such as working on an assembly line; or sharing a drink from the same glass or bottle.
    • Close contacts should self-isolate for 14 days from the last day that they were exposed to the person with COVID-19 while they were contagious.
  • Lower risk contacts include staff, visitors, or patrons who had contact with the person with COVID-19 for any length of time while physical distancing (keeping two meters/six feet apart). It also includes occasional interactions (lasting a few minutes) where physical distancing may or may not have been maintained.
    • Examples: Co-workers in a common work area separated by more than two metres/six feet; quickly walking by the case in a hallway; or being briefly in the same room together.
    • Lower risk contacts should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days from the last day that they were exposed to the person with COVID-19 while they were contagious.
  • To support contact tracing, maintain attendance records of all staff and clients (i.e. name, date, time, email address or phone number). As per Reg 263/20, patron logs are required for:
    • Meeting and event spaces,
    • Concert venues, theatres and cinemas,
    • Indoor and outdoor sports and recreational fitness facilities,
    • Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments, and
    • Food and drink establishments (also perBy-law 665-2020).
  • Employers may be notified by an employee or patron who may have been contagious while at the workplace.
    • The employer should work with an employee with COVID-19 to identify if others may have been exposed at the workplace while the person was contagious.
    • The employer can notify employees who were considered to have been close contacts to self-isolate, and lower risk contacts to self-monitor, for 14 days from their last exposure to the case, while maintaining confidentiality of all affected employees.
    • This approach can also be used if an employer is informed that a patron/client attended the establishment while contagious, and had close contact with their employees.
    • If a person with COVID-19 discloses illness to the employer, but others at the workplace have not been exposed (e.g. staff was not present while contagious), then further contact tracing would not be needed at the workplace.
  • Employers may be notified by Toronto Public Health that a person with COVID-19 may have been present at the workplace while contagious.
    • Consent is obtained from the employee before Toronto Public Health discloses personal health information to the employer.
    • Upon request, be prepared to provide a list of the names and contact information of staff and, if applicable, clients or patrons, who may have been exposed. Toronto Public Health can use this information to notify and provide instructions for close contacts to self-isolate or self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Personal information collected for COVID-19 contract tracing can only be used for this purpose, unless an individual provides their consent. Records should only be kept for 30 days, and then shredded.
  • Ensure you maintain privacy and confidentiality of employees’ and patrons’ personal health information at all times. If necessary, use non-descript language if notifying others that a person who was in the workplace, floor, or area was infected or exposed to the COVID-19 virus.
  • Public notification is generally not required unless persons who may have been exposed while at the workplace cannot be identified or contacted in a timely manner.

COVID-19 Outbreaks in the Workplace

  • A workplace outbreak can be defined as two or more confirmed COVID-19 cases in the workplace that are linked (e.g. same work area, same shift) within a 14-day period where both cases could have reasonably become infected while at the workplace.
    • Examples of having “reasonably” become infected while at the workplace include a known exposure to a staff, visitor or patron who was COVID-19 positive while in the workplace, or no obvious source of infection outside of the workplace.
  • Toronto Public Health will conduct an investigation of workplace outbreaks in some circumstances.
  • A public health investigation can include any of the following:
    • Interview with the employer to assess existing prevention measures and possible sources of transmission in the workplace.
      • This may be done by telephone and/or by electronic survey.
    • Request for information to help identify additional cases and tracing contacts.
      • This may include staff contact information, staff schedules, and patron logs.
      • You may be provided with an electronic link or survey to share information securely with the investigator.
    • Guidance on additional required prevention measures, including workplace restrictions and closures.
    • Recommendations on targeted testing of staff.
    • Support in communicating to staff, business partners, and the public.
    • On-site inspection of the workplace.
  • Information must be provided to Toronto Public Health in a timely manner to help stop further spread of COVID-19.
  • Consider enhanced cleaning and disinfecting measures to reduce the risk of disease spread in the workplace.

Reporting

  • Know and communicate the rights and responsibilities of the employer and staff during COVID-19.
  • Employees must report any circumstance that is likely to be hazardous to the health or safety of others in the workplace, including their own potential exposure to COVID-19 that caused or is likely to cause illness to the employee or to any other person.
  • If you have been advised that one of your employees has tested positive due to an exposure at the workplace, report it to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
  • Contact Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600 for further guidance or questions.

Other Resources