Workplace guidance for sector employers and employees
The following information outlines COVID-19 public health guidance relevant for the agriculture and agri-food sector. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada does not develop or issue public health guidance. Rather, this site brings together existing federal public health guidance of importance to the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. This material has been assembled in close consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada. It does not address legislated occupational health and safety requirements for the workplace, nor does it replace public health guidance from local Public Health Authorities or the Public Health Agency of Canada. In general, public health guidance should be consistent across jurisdictions, however, where discrepancies exist, the more specific and/or local guidance normally takes precedence.
The guidance provided will be updated, as necessary, to respond to the impacts of COVID-19.
This checklist has been developed as a resource to help farm businesses put in place a plan for mitigating the spread of COVID-19. While targeted to businesses with temporary foreign workers, its criteria and considerations in a simple checklist format are useful for all agricultural businesses.
How the virus spreads in a workplace
Employees in processing plants or other agricultural operations like greenhouses and farms do not face increased exposure to COVID-19 through the products they handle. However, their work environments, such as processing lines, field equipment, and other areas where they cannot avoid frequently touched surfaces or packaging or close contact with coworkers and supervisors, may contribute substantially to their potential exposure. Factors that affect agriculture and food employees' risk for exposure to COVID-19 in workplaces include:
- Distance between employees – processing plant employees often work close to one another on processing lines. Other agriculture and food employees may also be near one another at other times, such as when clocking in or out, during breaks, as part of communal living or harvesting or in locker/changing rooms.
- Duration of contact – processing plant employees often have long shifts where they have close contact to coworkers (for example, for 10 to 12 hours per shift). Employees who live together, such as temporary foreign workers, may also have prolonged contact with their housemates and work crews. Continued contact with potentially infectious individuals increases the risk of transmission.
- Type of contact – employees may be exposed to the virus through respiratory droplets in the air – for example, when someone in a facility who has the virus coughs or sneezes. It is also possible that exposure could occur when employees touch contaminated surfaces or objects, such as tools, packages, field equipment, workstations, communal kitchens or break room tables, and then touch their mouth, eyes or nose before washing their hands. Shared spaces that increase close personal contact such as bunkhouses, break rooms, locker rooms, and entrances/exits to the facility may also contribute to their risk.
Other factors that may increase risk among employees include:
- The practice of sharing transportation such as ride-share vans, shuttle vehicles, car-pools, and public transportation.
- Frequent contact with community residents, family members, and fellow employees in areas where there is ongoing community transmission.
Reducing the risk of COVID-19 in a workplace
Preventing the spread of COVID-19 should focus on preventing exposure to COVID-19 both in the community and in the workplace (see: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Prevention and risks). There is no single action or tool that will stop the spread of COVID-19. Each facility manager or employer should put in place a suite of measures based on their specific identified risks.
The most important measures, at home, in the community and in the workplace, are:
- Physical distancing - maintain a 2 metre distance from others.
- When it is not possible to consistently maintain a 2 metre physical distance from others, wearing a non-medical mask/face covering is recommended.
- Practicing rigorous hand hygiene - wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use alcohol based hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol) if soap and water are not available.
- Avoiding touching your face: mouth, nose or eyes.
- Practicing good respiratory etiquette - cough or sneeze into your arm, or wear a non-medical mask or face covering to prevent spread of respiratory droplets from an unknowingly-infected person from coming into contact with other people.
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects regularly.
It is essential that no one enter the workplace if they have even mild symptoms.
Other steps facility managers should take include:
- Identifying one qualified person, such as your occupational health and safety professional, to be responsible for COVID-19 assessment and control planning. Control plans should apply to anyone entering or working at the facility/location (for example, all facility employees, contractors, visitors, and others).
- Make sure all employees in the workplace know how to contact the qualified person if they have any COVID-19 concerns.
- Communicating to employees the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and what steps the workplace is taking to prevent its spread.
- Reaching out to local public health officials and establishing ongoing communications to make sure the workplace has relevant and up-to-date information about COVID-19.
- Assessing the workplace periodically to identify COVID-19 risks and prevention strategies and addressing the control program as required.
- Establishing a system for employees to alert their supervisors if they are experiencing signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or if they have had recent close contact with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case.
- Establishing and communicating what the response measures will be when a suspected case is identified.
- Ensuring that supervisors and human resources personnel are aware of policies requiring employees who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to remain at home, in order to avoid mixed messages regarding attendance at work.
- Implementing strategies to prioritize positions without which critical work would stop. This prioritization should include an analysis of work tasks, workforce availability at specific worksites, and assessment of hazards associated with the tasks and worksite. This could include cross-training employees to perform critical duties at a worksite to minimize the total number of workers needed to continue operations.
- Ensuring that effective communication networks are in place to provide consistent messages on actions taken by the employer to protect employee health as well as the responsibilities of employees. Opportunities for employees to provide feedback on practical issues associated with mitigation strategies may also be useful.
- Establishing cohorts for groups of employees that live, commute, and/or work together to limit potential spread of COVID-19 and also enable easier contact tracing if a positive case is found. See Establishing cohorts for groups of employees for more information.
If you have Temporary Foreign Workers, the Guidance for employers of temporary foreign workers regarding COVID-19 can provide additional information to reduce the risk of COVID-19.
Establishing cohorts for groups of employees
- Establishing work teams or crews of people that work together on the same shift or in the same area of the business can help to limit transmission of the virus and identify who has been in contact with whom if/when a COVID-19 case were to occur. Possible ways to create work teams include:
- Establishing work teams or crews of people that work together.
- Breaking business into zones and limit the number of people working across zones.
- Scheduling the same workers to work together and/or take breaks at the same time each day and staggering starting times for crews.
- Arranging bus schedules or shuttles to carry the same groups of workers together.
- Operations in the agriculture and agri-food sector may also have employees living together in bunkhouses and commuting to the same workplace together in company buses or carpools. In these circumstances, employers should consider organizing groups of workers into "cohorts" (also referred to as bubbles or work teams/crews), in addition to good hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and physical distancing wherever possible. The use of cohorts reduces the risk of transmission of COVID-19 among employees and is also an important tool to trace potential transmission paths if a positive COVID-19 case is found in the workplace, which facilitates a quick response to mitigate further spread of the virus.
- Cohorting could mean:
- Decentralizing accommodations as much as possible and accommodating work teams together: All workers living in a bunkhouse together also working together as part of the same work team or crew.
- Minimizing mixing between teams as much as possible.
- Scheduling work teams to start work and take breaks at the same time each day.
- Limiting social activities to only those within their bunkhouse or work team.
- Keeping the number of employees using common areas as small as possible.
- Arranging bus schedules or shuttles to carry the same groups of workers together. See Guidance for carpooling for more information on group travel.
- Each cohort should stay physically distant from other cohorts when possible.
- Establishing work teams or crews of people that work together on the same shift or in the same area of the business can help to limit transmission of the virus and identify who has been in contact with whom if/when a COVID-19 case were to occur. Possible ways to create work teams include:
Guidance for carpooling
- Use individual transportation when available. Encourage workers to avoid carpooling to and from work, if possible.
- If carpooling or using company vehicles is a necessity, the following control practices should be used:
- If cohorts or teams of employees have been established, then carpooling/shuttles should be limited to cohort members only.
- Limit the number of people per vehicle to the extent possible to maintain physical distancing. This may mean using more vehicles.
- Encourage employees to maintain physical distancing to the extent possible.
- Encourage employees to use hand hygiene before entering the vehicle and when arriving at the destination.
- Encourage employees in a shared van or car space to wear non-medical masks or face coverings.
- Dedicate a vehicle to each cohort, or clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces after each carpool or shuttle trip (for example, door handles, handrails, seatbelt buckles).
- Encourage employees to follow coughing and sneezing etiquette when in the vehicle.
Operational changes to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in a workplace
There is no single action or tool that will stop the spread of COVID-19. Each facility manager or employer should put in place a suite of measures based on identified risk areas to minimize the potential spread of the virus in the workplace. The goal is to minimize each hazard; install engineering controls; and implement appropriate cleaning, sanitation, and disinfection practices to reduce exposure or shield workers. Administrative strategies, like how employees are scheduled, are also an important part of an approach to prevention in these workplaces.
Employers can do the following to promote physical distancing:
- Encourage single-file movement with a wo metre distance between each employee through the facility.
- Modify the alignment of workstations, including along processing lines, if feasible, so that employees are at least two metres apart in all directions (for example, side-to-side and when facing one another). Ideally, modify the alignment of workstations so that employees do not face one another.
- Consider adjusting line speeds in order to require fewer employees at each workstation.
- Designate employees to monitor and facilitate distancing on processing floor lines, within the greenhouse or fields, or on field equipment.
- Keep the number of people using common spaces as small as possible.
- Stagger employees' arrival and departure times to avoid congregations of workers in parking areas, locker rooms, and near time clocks.
- Stagger break times or provide temporary break areas and restrooms to avoid groups of employees during breaks.
- Remove or rearrange chairs and tables, or add partitions to tables, in break rooms and other areas employees may use to increase employee separation.
- Identify alternative areas to accommodate the need for extra space, such as training and conference rooms, or using outside tents for break and lunch areas.
- Provide visual cues (for example, floor markings, signs) that you can read from a far distance as a reminder to everyone to maintain physical distancing, including on breaks.
- Consider establishing cohorts and minimize contact between cohorts including staggering work times to avoid different cohorts from interacting with each other. See Establishing cohorts for groups of employees for more information.
Employers can do the following to promote good hygiene:
- Educate employees on good practices such rigorous hand washing and avoiding touching their faces, including their eyes, noses, and mouths, particularly until after they have thoroughly washed their hands.
- Encourage rigorous hand washing upon completing work and/or removing non-medical masks or personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Provide workers access to soap, clean running water, and single use paper towels for handwashing.
- Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not immediately available and place them in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene. If possible, choose hand sanitizer stations that are touch-free.
- Consider other workplace programs to promote personal hygiene, such as:
- adding additional short breaks into staff schedules to increase how often staff can wash their hands;
- providing tissues and no-touch trash receptacles for employees to use; and
- educating employees that cigarettes and smokeless tobacco use can lead to increased contact between potentially contaminated hands and their mouth, and that avoiding these products may reduce their risk of infection.
Mitigation measures should also focus on increased sanitation and disinfection practices:
- For tool-intensive operations, employers should ensure tools are regularly cleaned and disinfected, including each time employees change workstations or move to a new set of tools.
- Establish protocols and provide supplies to increase the frequency of sanitization in work and common spaces.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces in workspaces, break rooms, and washrooms (for example, microwave or refrigerator handles, vending machine touchpads, sink taps and washroom handles) at least once per shift, if possible. Frequently clean push bars and handles on any doors that do not open automatically and handrails on stairs or along walkways. If physical barriers are being used, then these should be cleaned frequently.
- Employees who perform cleaning and disinfection tasks may require additional PPE and other controls to protect them from chemical hazards posed by disinfectants. In taking action to prevent the spread of COVID-19, employers should not diminish the level of protection provided to employees performing cleaning and disinfection activities in manufacturing workplaces.
When minimum physical distancing is not possible
Modifications to the workplace
- For workplaces where physical distancing of two metres is not possible, look at possible modifications to the workplace such as installing physical barriers like plexiglas or curtains between individuals. These modifications should not create hazards for employees.
- Place handwashing stations or hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene. If possible, choose hand sanitizer stations that are touch-free.
Use of non-medical masks and cloth face coverings
- PHAC generally considers that medical masks, including surgical, medical procedure face masks and respirators (like N95 masks), must be kept for health care workers and others providing direct care to COVID-19 patients unless it is an occupational health and safety requirement of the job.
- If physical distancing and modifications to the workplace are not consistently possible, the use of non-medical masks or face coverings.
- Commercially available or homemade non-medical masks or face coverings must be constructed to completely cover from the bridge of the nose to chin without gaping, and secured to the head by ties or ear loops) is recommended.
- If an employee is alone behind a physical barrier, a non-medical mask or face covering is not necessary.
- These masks can be used to minimize the opportunity for respiratory droplets to reach other people or contaminate common surfaces and should be replaced when they become wet, soiled, or otherwise visibly contaminated. Cloth masks should be washed before re-wearing.
- The use of these masks does not replace physical distancing and rigorous hand hygiene, and respiratory etiquette, wherever possible, nor should they replace the personal protective equipment used pre-COVID for occupational health and safety reasons. For more information on the use of masks, Use of Masks and PPE in Agriculture and Food Facilities and Businesses.
- PHAC generally considers that medical masks, including surgical, medical procedure face masks and respirators (like N95 masks), must be kept for health care workers and others providing direct care to COVID-19 patients. If physical distancing and modifications to the workplace are not consistently possible, the use of non-medical masks or face coverings (constructed to completely cover the nose and mouth without gaping, and secured to the head by ties or ear loops) can be encouraged. These masks can be used to stop respiratory droplets from reaching other people or contaminating common surfaces and should be replaced when they become wet, soiled, or otherwise visibly contaminated. The use of these masks does not replace good hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and physical distancing wherever possible. For more information on the use of masks, read Use of Masksin Agriculture and Food Facilities and Businesses.
Use of Masks in Agriculture and Food Facilities and Businesses
Respirators (N-95 Masks)
- Respirators such as N-95 masks must be conserved for health care settings and for individuals providing direct care to COVID-19 patients and are not recommended for use in the agriculture and agri-food sector as a means to reduce the risk of COVID-19.
- However, if prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, an occupational health and safety risk assessment has determined that an employee is required to wear a N95 mask or other PPE as part of normal operations to help control a specific workplace hazard, they should continue to do so. The use of N95s and other PPE continues to be required in the sector based on the normal operational requirements of the organization. N95 masks must be fitted to each individual wearer to ensure there is a proper seal so that no contaminate can leak in from around the face – a process called fit testing.
- N-95s may be appropriate for workers performing screening duties and necessary for workers who may have to help an employee that starts to feel sick at work and has signs or symptoms of COVID-19. See sections Screen employees' health prior to entering the workplace and If COVID-19 symptoms develop at work for more information.
- Like N95s, medical masks must be conserved for health care workers and others providing direct care to COVID-19 patients and are not recommended for use in the agriculture and agri-food sector to reduce the risk of COVID-19. However, if an occupational health and safety risk assessment has determined that an employee is required to wear a surgical mask as part of normal operations to mitigate a specific workplace hazard, they should continue to do so.
Non-Medical Masks or Face Coverings
- The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends the use of non-medical masks or face coverings (constructed to completely cover the nose and mouth - from the bridge of the nose to chin - without gaping, and secured to the head by ties or ear loops) if physical distancing and modifications to the workplace are not consistently possible. This is an additional measure you can take to protect others around you.
- A non-medical mask or face covering may reduce the amount of large respiratory droplets that a person spreads when talking, sneezing, or coughing. Non-medical masks or face coverings may prevent people who do not know they have the virus that causes COVID-19 from spreading it to others.
- It may not be practical for workers to wear a single cloth face covering for the full duration of a work shift (for example, eight or more hours). Employers should provide readily available clean cloth face coverings (or disposable facemask options) for workers to use when the coverings become wet, soiled, or otherwise visibly contaminated.
- Non-medical masks or face coverings are intended to protect other people—not the wearer.
- Non-medical masks or face coverings are not PPE. They are not appropriate substitutes for PPE such as respirators (like N95 masks) or medical masks in workplaces where respirators or masks are recommended or required to protect the wearer.
- Employers should consider carefully the occupational requirements of their workers and their specific workplace configuration to ensure mitigation against any possible physical injuries that might inadvertently be caused by wearing a non-medical mask or face covering (for example, interfering with the ability to see or speak clearly, or become accidently lodged in equipment the wearer is operating).
- It may not be practical for employees to wear a single non-medical mask or face covering for the full duration of a work shift (for example, eight or more hours),particularly in humid workplaces like greenhouses or in areas where the face covering will easily become wet or dirty. Employers should provide readily available clean non-medical masks or face coverings for employees to use when the coverings become wet, soiled, or otherwise visibly contaminated.
- If it is determined that non-medical mask or face covering should be worn in the workplace they should:
- fit over the nose and mouth from bridge of nose to chin and fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face;
- be secured with ties or ear loops;
- include multiple layers of fabric;
- allow for breathing without restriction;
- can be laundered using the warmest appropriate water setting and machine dried daily after the shift, without damage or change to shape (a clean cloth face covering should be used each day);
- not be shared with others;
- not be used if they become wet or contaminated;
- be exchanged with clean replacements as needed;
- be handled as little as possible to prevent transferring infectious materials to the cloth and/or face; and
- not worn with or instead of respiratory protection when respirators are an occupational health and safety requirement.
- stress hand hygiene before and after removing and putting on masks.
Wearing a mask alone will not prevent the spread of COVID-19. Consistently and strictly adhering to good hygiene and public health measures, including frequent hand washing and physical (social) distancing where possible is always necessary.
Extending the use of N95s
- Health Canada is currently monitoring and assessing the acceptability of various decontamination and sterilization methods/strategies for the reprocessing of single use N95 respirators in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak. These methods may help address the shortage of N95 masks for the agriculture and food sector.
Employee with an underlying health issue
- Older adults, people with immune compromising conditions and chronic diseases appear to be at greater risk of severe disease, so consideration should be given to protecting them from possible exposure to COVID-19 cases. However, the health status of employees/clients may not be disclosed to their employers. Workplaces/businesses cannot assume they know the health status of their employees.
- Risk mitigation strategies include:
- Emphasizing communication about risk to staff/clients;
- Allowing those employees who identify with an immune compromising or health condition to continue to work remotely, where possible;
- Encouraging the use of individual measures such as frequent hand hygiene, physical distancing, respiratory etiquette and staying home when ill;
- Providing options to the medically at risk to reduce high risk close contacts at work, if possible.
Screening employees' health prior to entering the workplace
Screening is one mitigation tool
- Screening employees for COVID-19 before they enter the workplace each day has become a more common practice in agriculture and food facilities, like processing plants, to decrease the possibility of the virus entering and then spreading in the facility. Screening can include temperature checks and/or verbal and/or written health checklists.
- However, due to its limitations, described below, it should only be one component. Physical distancing, hand hygiene, and respiratory etiquette are still required as they are among a broader set of behaviours that are effective in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 including:
- Physical distancing (staying two metres apart);
- Staying home if you are sick, even if just mildly un-well;
- Washing your hands rigorously and frequently;
- Avoiding touching your face;
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects;
- Covering your cough with tissues or your sleeve;
- Wearing a non-medical mask or face covering when physical distancing is not always possible;
- Use of physical barriers such as transparent barriers, or other methods such as change of workflow, and taped floor spacing in public or work environments; and
- Limiting contacts among employees by creating cohorts, staggering breaks, assigning seating, etc.
Limitations of screening
- Fever is not usually the first symptom of COVID-19 and some cases never develop a fever. Fever can also be suppressed by taking medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol). Implementing workplace screening measures based ONLY on taking temperatures to detect fever is therefore not recommended.
- Some people may not show or feel any symptoms. These asymptomatic people may 'pass' health screening checks, but can still be carrying the virus and spread it in the workplace. Employers should not assume that an employee that passes a health screening check will not spread the virus to others.
- If a strategy to screen employees for COVID-19 symptoms (such as temperature checks) is implemented, policies and procedures for screening employees should be developed in consultation with local public health officials.
- Options to screen all people entering a facility for COVID-19 symptoms could include:
- Screen prior to entry into the facility.
- Provide verbal screening to determine whether employees have had a fever, felt feverish, or had chills, coughing, or difficulty breathing in the past 24 hours.
- Check temperatures of employees at the start of each shift to identify anyone with a fever of 100.4℉ (38 °C) or greater (or reported feelings of feverishness). Ensure that screeners:
- are trained to use temperature monitors and monitors are accurate under conditions of use (such as cold temperatures); and
- wear appropriate PPE.
- Do not let employees enter the workplace if they have a fever of 100.4℉ (38 °C) or greater, if they reported feelings of feverishness, or if screening results indicate that the worker is suspected of having COVID-19.
- Encourage employees to self-isolate and contact a healthcare provider;
- Provide information on the facility's return-to-work policies and procedures; and
- Inform human resources and supervisor (so worker can be moved off schedule during illness and a replacement can be assigned, if needed).
- Ensure that personnel performing screening activities, including temperature checks, are appropriately protected from exposure to potentially infectious individuals entering the facility:
- Make modifications such as physical barriers, dividers or rope and stanchion systems, to maintain at least two metres of distance between screeners and workers being screened.
- If screeners need to be within two metres of workers, provide them with appropriate PPE required for close contact with suspected cases of COVID-19. Such PPE may include gloves, a gown, a face shield, and, at a minimum, an N95 mask.
- N95 masks (or more protective) may be appropriate for workers performing screening duties and necessary for individuals helping an employee that becomes un-well in the work environment if that employee has signs or symptoms of COVID-19.
If COVID-19 symptoms develop at work
- Employees who appear to have symptoms (for example, fever, cough, or shortness of breath) upon arrival at work or who develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19 during the day should immediately be separated from others at the workplace and sent home. These employees should not take public transportation in order to return home.
- Ensure that personnel that help sick employees are appropriately protected from exposure. When personnel need to be within two metres of a sick colleague, appropriate PPE may include gloves, a gown, a face shield and, at a minimum, a face mask. N95 masks (or more protective) may be appropriate for individuals managing a sick employee if that employee has signs or symptoms of COVID-19.
- If a case of COVID-19 is identified as being associated with an employee or a close contact of that employee, employers should work with local public health officials to facilitate the identification of other exposed and potentially exposed individuals, such as coworkers in a plant.
- If an employee reports symptoms, disinfect the workstation used and any tools handled by the sick worker.
Advanced preparation for an investigation into a positive case
- Being prepared for an investigation following a positive case of COVID-19 in the workplace can help an employer react quickly to reduce the risk of further transmission and support business continuity.
- Employers should be able to trace the points of contact of positive cases to support local health authorities. Advance preparations for contact tracing may include:
- A schematic diagram of the facility to assist positive cases in communicating their movement through the facility and identifying potential contacts.
- Lists indicating which employees are sharing vehicles (for example, carpooling, shuttle buses) to and from work
- Centralized collection of visitor logs for essential visitors including contact information
- Confirmation of current contact information and schedule for all contractors and delivery personnel regularly in the facility
- Ensure that time-clock data is readily available in a format useful for contact tracing.
- Cohorting - establishing work teams or crews of people that work together on the same shift or in the same area of the business and take breaks together can also help to identify who has been in contact with who if/when a COVID-19 case were to occur. See Establishing cohorts for groups of employees for more information.
- Maintaining records that provide details on the schedule and shift worked, the zone or place of work within the facility, assigned seating at lunch and breaks, start and end times as well as entry and exit points for employees/work teams.
Access to Testing
- Your local Public Health Authority will have information about access to testing.
- While testing is important tool, testing as a preventative measure on its own will not be sufficient to eliminate all risk of transmission, even when testing becomes more readily available. A negative test result does not mean someone has not been exposed. It may be too early on the day of testing to detect the virus. In addition, a negative test on one day does not mean that an employee won't test positive the next day, because sometimes the viral load is too small to initially detect. Testing an asymptomatic person cannot always confirm that the individual is not carrying the virus.
- For these reasons, it is essential that all staff continue to practice the set of behaviours that are effective and that employers plan to address each of these methods as is practical in their workplace.
- Closing a business following a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace is a decision that a business needs to take in consultation with its local Public Health Authority.
- A number of factors should be taken into consideration when making that decision, including how many cases have been identified in your workplace, the degree of contact that the ill person had with coworkers, the extent of spread within your community, and the measures that you have in place to rapidly identify any ill employees and prevent further transmission in the workplace and the time it may take to put in place additional mitigation/control measures.
Return to work protocols
Following a confirmed case
- Employers should consult their local Public Health Authority for return to work protocols as these may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and with individual situations.
- All employees who were close contacts of an infected employee and are considered high risk should also be removed from the workplace for at least a 14-day period to ensure the infection does not spread in the workplace. See the section on Protocols for contact with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 for more information.
Following signs/symptoms of COVID-19
- Workers with COVID-19 who have symptoms and have stayed home (home isolated) should not return to work until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation, and have consulted with their healthcare providers and local public health departments. Employers should consult their local Public Health Authority for return to work protocols as these may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and with individual situations.
- The situation is constantly changing, so employers will need to continue to reassess the virus’s transmission levels in their area and follow recommendations from local public health officials.
Protocols for contact with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19
- A close contact is a person who lives in the same household as a person infected with COVID-19 or a person who had close prolonged contact (within two meters for more than 15 minutes) with another person who has tested positive for COVID-19 without the consistent and appropriate use of recommended personal protective equipment. This type of contact is considered a high risk exposure and it is recommended that a close contact of a known case self-isolate at home for 14 days starting from the date of the last unprotected exposure.
- A non-close contact is a person living or working with someone tested positive for COVID-19 who had prolonged contact (greater than 15 minutes) but was not within 2 metres of the positive person. This type of contact is considered medium risk exposure and it is recommended that the exposed person self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days following their last contact.
- Casual contacts like someone being briefly in the same room for less than 15 minutes or someone working at the same place but not near the COVID-19 positive person (within 2 metres) are considered low risk.
- Employees may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they are not close contacts at high risk, remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community. Employers will work with local public health to determine required approaches for each unique situation.
- The Public Health Agency of Canada has information on the Public Health Management of cases and contacts associated with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
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