Written on behalf of Peter McSherry
On January 4, 2021, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health published a Letter of Instruction to all employers in the City of Toronto permitted to be open under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, requiring them to take additional measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, pursuant to s. 2(2) of Schedule 1 to Ontario Regulation 82/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 1. Section 2(2) of the Regulation states:
“2. (2) The person responsible for a business or organization that is open shall operate the business or organization in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials, including any advice, recommendations or instructions on physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting.”
First, the instruction states that an employer or business must immediately notify Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600 when it becomes aware of two or more peoplewho test positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day interval in connection with the workplace.
Additionally, employers and businesses must follow the following directives:
- If two or more peopletest positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day interval in connection with your workplace premises, employers must:
- Provide contact information for a designated contact person at the workplace and ensure that person is available to communicate with Toronto Public Health and implement any additional measures immediately as required;
- Ensure that accurate and updated contact information for all workers is available to be produced to Toronto Public Health within 24 hours of request in support of case management and contact tracing requirements for COVID- 19; and
- Cooperate with infection prevention and control personnel from Toronto Public Health including allowing entry into the workplace premise for inspection and to support enhanced infection prevention and control measures and recommendations.
Finally, businesses must also ensure that the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development and/or other relevant government authorities have been notified in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Infection Prevention Measures
Additionally, the following prevention measures are required to be implemented in workplaces and businesses:
- Ensure hand sanitizer and hand-washing facilitiesare provided in work and rest areas. Hand sanitizer with 60-90% alcohol content is recommended.
- Implement rigorous and frequent environmental cleaningin all high-touch areas and those areas accessible to the public, including washrooms, check-out counters, concession stands, and other high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs and elevator buttons.
- Conduct or have the property owner or landlord conduct a regular review of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systemsto ensure they are functioning well.
- Minimize instances of more than one individual in a vehiclefor driving associated with work. If unavoidable, ensure face coverings are worn in the vehicle (preferably medical masks) and drive with the windows open.
- Ensure that physical distancing of workers takes place by at least two (2) metres throughout the workplace and during eating and rest periods (e.g., lunchrooms, change rooms, washrooms). Install one-way walkways to reduce close physical interactions.
- Implement physical barriers, such as plexiglass, when physical distancing is not possible. Physical distancing is always preferable to the use of barriers.
Supports for Workers
Employers are also required to inform employees of their entitlement to income replacement and workplace-related benefits if they have to isolate due to symptoms of COVID-19, are being tested for COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19.
Note that the following employer and organizations are currently exempt from the above instructions:
- Licensed child care programs;
- Health care providers and health care entities; and
- Schools, private schools and school boards.
If you are an employee concerned about the legality of workplace policies, or an employer looking to ensure you stay compliant with health and safety regulations as they relate to COVID-19, contact the offices of Guelph employment lawyer Peter McSherry. We regularly assist employees with employment and labour issues. Contact us online or by phone at 519-821-5465 to schedule a consultation.