FAQ: Public Health Measures (PHMs) and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Guide

What PHMs have DND/CAF implemented so far, and what are the instructions regarding using PPEs?

The DM\CDS Joint Directive – DND\CAF COVID-19 Public Health Measures and Personal Protection explains the numerous precautions and safety measures DND is taking to ensure the health and well-being of employees. All staff should continue to respect the Deputy Minister direction and work remotely where possible. Currently, in accordance with DM directive, only DND staff who are physically required to conduct critical tasks should be on DND premises. All other employees should remain at home until further notice.

Our eventual return to work will be gradual, in-line with relevant provincial guidelines, and dependent on local circumstances. We will provide you with further direction on return to work and the health and safety measures that pertain to you in the coming weeks.

If one of my colleagues tests positive for COVID-19, will the entire personnel in the same building be required to undergo testing or not? Are there testing centres in military bases in Canada?

All members must report immediately if they believe that they have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19 and they must comply with public health directed testing and isolation/quarantine procedures.

CFHSG will not acquire or field a rapid testing capability for COVID-19 in the three-month horizon, requiring continued reliance on provincial/territorial or contracted processing facilities and disciplined application of public health measures.

Independent testing capability for the CAF is envisioned for Stage 4 of Business Resumption.


Will all persons granted access to Canadian Forces Bases, including foreign Military Members (BATUS), other government department employees and contractors, be required to undergo screening prior to being allowed on Base?

There is no current plan to routinely screen all individuals (CAF Members, Public servants or others) when entering a base. However, depending on the specific local circumstances, screening protocols may be implemented. At all times, people must follow public health direction that applies to their region and must be adaptive and flexible as the situation changes. This public health direction includes potential travel related quarantine, not reporting to the work place with COVID symptoms, maintaining physical distancing, use of face coverings when required, frequent handwashing, and cough and sneeze etiquette.

Do I have to wear the DND issued Non-Medical Mask (NMM)? Can I wear my own?

If you are authorized to report for duty or work and you are unable to maintain 2 metre physical distancing while conducting your work related tasks, a non-medical mask (NMM) will be distributed via L1s. Reach out to your manager or Chain of Command to learn how to acquire your mask. If you are able to maintain 2 metre physical distancing but still wish to wear a NMM mask, you may wear a personally acquired or fabricated one.

The NMM is now a part of CAF uniform and must be worn within the CAF guidelines of uniformity, discipline and maintaining a positive military appearance. FG/L1s will ensure that NMMs worn while in uniform are conservative in design and colour, provide no overt support to industry, and shall not include slang language or offensive content.

DND employees and any other persons granted access to Defence establishments may also choose to wear their own NMM.

All personally acquired or fabricated NMMs must be compliant with Public Health Agency of Canada specifications. Medical grade masks (including surgical masks and N95 masks) will not be issued to the majority of DT members. You can also read more in the DM/CDS Joint Directive on PHM and PPE.

What physical distancing and other measures will be implemented?

Measures taken or in the process of being taken at all Defence Establishments include;

  • marked with one-way pathways and staircases;
  • elevators are for use by individuals with limited mobility;
  • hand sanitizer will be available at each entrance/exit, however please keep in mind that this may take some time as the supply chain is currently out of stock. Please keep in mind however, that frequent hand washing with soap for at least twenty seconds is still the most effective way to sanitize hands;
  • Direction will also be given to L1s and Commands on how cubicles can and should be occupied;
  • and Washrooms, for the most part, will be single occupancy.

I have been in isolation and working from home. I'm hesitant to get a haircut due to the proximity of a stranger within the 2 meter distance. Will there be any direction regarding hair or is this at the discretion of unit CO and RSM?

No instructions will be submitted on social isolation following haircuts, however Public Health guidance should be followed at all times. If you can't maintain a distance of 2 metres, a mask should be worn. We understand that there is a lot of confusion regarding social isolation requirements so we encourage you to inquire with your chain of command and they will provide direction for you to follow specific to your region and circumstances.

Will physical distancing measures in the office be dependent on travel? Will restrictions differ for those who come in on public transit vs. personal or shared vehicles?

Physical distancing recommendations are in place regardless of how employees travel to work. In association with other PHMs - use of NMM, hand washing with soap, and following public health advice.

What if a non-medical mask is required to be at my work place and I am uncomfortable wearing a mask to work (claustrophobic)?

A non-medical mask is only required when one cannot maintain the minimum 2 meter physical distancing. If you are in your own cubicle/office, then a NMM may not be necessary. You could also politely ask all visitors to your cubicle/office to maintain their distance.

My PHM 2m zone includes a walking aisle that many people use. I cannot keep leaving my cubicle whenever anyone walks by, so should I be wearing a non-surgical mask all of the time?

Public health guidance recommends that when you are not able to maintain 2m distance you wear a mask. Please reach out to your manager or local CoC to discuss whether an alternative set up is possible.

For more information, please read the Joint CDS/DM Directive for the Resumption of Activities: /content/canadasite/en/department-national-defence/corporate/policies-standards/joint-cds-dm-directive-for-the-resumption-of-activities.html

I am a civilian and have a respiratory disease. Wearing a mask flares up my symptoms and I feel dizzy. My employer is providing me with a cloth masks to wear in the office. What are my options?

There are several options available to you in this situation. Since you have an underlying health condition, your manager can allow you to continue to work from home. If you provide a critical service and must be in the work place, then your manager can provide a surgical mask or respirator, which are supposed to be hypoallergenic. Finally, you could be allowed to take Leave 699. TBS/OCHRO will provide a determination if this type of leave will continue past the end of June.

Are face shields an acceptable substitute for non-medical masks in the workplace?

Currently, there is no guidance from PHAC on plastic face shields as a replacement for NMM.? As such, we recommend the continued use of NMM where physical distancing measures cannot be meet. However, a combination of NMM and Plastic Face Shield as PHMs would work.

What measures will be taken to ensure adequate physical distancing is maintained during fire drills, false alarms, or actual emergencies in DND/CAF facilities?

In the event of a fire or building evacuation (drills, alarms or otherwise) all staircases may be used in the down direction to permit personnel to exit the building quickly and in an orderly fashion. Personnel are encouraged to maintain the two-metre physical distancing if possible and only if it does not impede safe evacuation.

I'm working in a cubicle and my employer will provide me a non-medical mask as a PHM. I don't really understand why my employer doesn't also provide me with non-medical gloves?

As per the CDS/DM Joint Directive, users of medical-grade PPE are normally restricted to members on operations, first responders and health care workers where specific guidance on its allocation and use is already provided in separate policies, directives, and orders. This includes equipment such as: surgical and N95 masks, eye protection, face shields, gloves, and gowns. Medical-grade PPE will not be issued to the majority of the Defence Team.

Water sewer workers are required to wear N95 masks for certain procedures. Working with sewage and when we were required to reopen buildings and run the water taps. Local Procurement Specialists can't get them as we are not defined as front line workers. How do we get those masks?

A RP Operations Detachment’s Water, Fuel & Environment technicians have utilized industrial safety masks for specific tasks (such as during operation and maintenance of sewage treatment plants) even before the emergence of the COVID-19 virus. This PPE requirement has not changed and is still a requirement for safely conducting the tasks. These masks are not required for flushing a facility’s domestic water supply or subsequently testing it. It is recommended that if there is a supply chain issue, that the RP Ops Detachment personnel raise this issue to their supervisor for resolution.

Should we consider NMM as contaminated once worn? How long should we wear it before it should be disposed and a new one should be worn?

Masks should be worn for the short periods of time that you are unable to physically distance yourself from others in public spaces and for no longer than 4 hours. Used masks should be considered as potentially contaminated. When removing a mask, do not touch the front or the inside of the mask; instead remove it by grasping the ties or straps with your fingers. Carefully place disposable masks in regular garbage containers and immediately conduct hand-washing.

Cloth masks should be changed as soon as they become damp or soiled. They should be placed directly into a washing machine or a disposable bag that can be emptied into a washing machine and then discarded. Cloth masks can be laundered with other items using detergent and a hot cycle, and then dried thoroughly. Masks that cannot be washed should be discarded and replaced as soon as they become damp, soiled or crumpled.

Some bases are allowing individuals to return to work 48hrs post symptomatic and with a negative test, I thought it was 10 days. What are the current guidelines?

As per current guidelines, CAF members who have been placed on home isolation due to symptoms compatible with a COVID-19 infection can stop home isolation and return to active duty a minimum of 10 days after the onset of their first symptom, provided the following conditions are met: they do not have a fever; they have improved clinically, and; they have been cleared by their local Senior Medical Authority and have Chain of Command approval. This 10-day home-isolation period corresponds with the transmissibility period for COVID-19. This 10-day minimum does not apply to hospitalized patients, and those that work in health-care settings may need to meet additional requirements before returning to their workplace. All CAF members and healthcare personnel should follow existing guidelines. If you have any questions, please speak your chain of command.

What should I do if, once back in the workplace, I feel that others around me are not adhering to the Public Health Measures (PHM) that have been implemented for the good of everyone?

If you see that someone is not adhering to the up-to-date PHM that have been dictated, a simple reminder to your colleague can go a long way. Use your judgement to determine when you might just remind your co-worker of a specific measure or ask them to maintain physical distancing. When appropriate, it might be necessary to speak with your chain of command.

If you have engaged your chain of command and still feel that the prescribed procedures are not being followed, Defence Team members can contact the OHS Secretariat (OHSSecretariatSST@forces.gc.ca) and we will follow up with your supervisor or local chain-of-command to ensure the PHMs are being followed/met.

If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, how are privacy considerations upheld when contact tracing and notifying staff and clients?

The identity of a Defence Team member who tests positive for COVID-19 is protected under the Privacy Act and would never be disclosed to other personnel. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, while it is their responsibility to advise their immediate supervisor, their name will be fully protected when the case is reported to OCHRO/ESDC through D Safe G. Should you be identified as someone who was in contact with a confirmed case you will receive a call from a contact tracer – this could be through Canadian Forces Health Services (for CAF members), your local public health unit (civilian personnel), or your supervisor/manager. Contact tracers will work with you to confirm your risk level, and if appropriate, will provide daily follow up calls for up to 14 days. To prevent the spread of COVID-19 within communities and across the country, Canadians are advised to follow the public health recommendations within their jurisdictions.

Can CAF personnel get tested at any provincial site or do they need to be tested at a DND facility?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, testing of CAF personnel has been conducted by Canadian Forces Health Services (CFHS) in cooperation with provincial and territorial health agencies. Canadian Armed Forces medical clinics are fully engaged in the fight against COVID-19 and helping to ease the pressure on the provincial and territorial health systems by taking care of CAF members.

If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have been identified as requiring a test through contact tracing measures, CAF members must follow the same process as everyone else. Seek a test at your local clinic/hospital, or at a health services centre if you are on a military base. You are then expected to follow instructions from medical personnel.

Cases of COVID-19 amongst CAF members are reported to the provincial public health authority in which they occur by the member’s supporting Health Services Centre in accordance with provincial requirements. As well, cases that are diagnosed through the support of the provincial laboratory would be automatically included in provincial case counts. In every jurisdiction, Health Services Centres coordinate case reporting and contact tracing with their civilian public health counterparts to ensure that all cases and contacts of COVID-19 receive the necessary follow-up, and the health and safety of all members of the Defence Team and the broader community is protected.

CAF members are encouraged to use the Public Health Agency of Canada online self-assessment tool and to follow local medical clinics’ advice if they develop symptoms or they think they need to be tested for COVID-19. CAF members can be provided advice by phone when contacting their respective clinic, based on the results of the self-assessment tool. CAF members are also strongly encouraged to download the COVID Alert app developed and built by the Government of Canada onto their personal or work-issued device. The app is an additional public health preventive tool for all Canadians to use to contribute to limiting the spread of COVID-19 and preventing future outbreaks, as well as protecting themselves.

What is the policy on sharing workstations?

The principle that should be guiding all work in the Defence Team is protection of the health and wellness of all personnel. According to the CDS/DM Directive on DND/CAF Reopening Strategy (summer 2021 posture), all personnel who return to the workplace are expected to understand and maintain the vigilant practice of Public Health Measures (PHMs). This includes maintaining physical distancing of two metres, wearing of a non-medical mask, and frequent hand-washing.

The Chain of Command will remain aware and responsive to the challenges and limitations of Defence Team personnel, and will move towards a hybrid approach to workplace arrangements in the post-pandemic environment that optimizes workforce posture. At the workplace, managers are responsible to ensure adherence to all health and safety requirements. Leaders and managers should continue to rigorously enforce following PHMs.

If you feel personnel are not following the PHMs, you are encouraged to bring the issue to your manager or supervisor. If the issue is not resolved, you can submit a complaint to the Conflict and Complaint Management Services (CCMS). If your issue is not handled locally to your satisfaction, you may also submit a grievance according to Queen's Regulations and Orders Chapter 7.

My husband's unit was sent home to self-isolate while awaiting testing on another member. Test results have not yet returned, however his department is recalling everyone to work. No other department has lifted the self-isolation. What can we do?

There will be variation across the different departments to reflect the unique mandates that they each serve, particularly here at DND. DND as a whole will follow the guidelines set out by the Federal Government regarding returning to work while accommodating for its unique essential services and operational requirements.

The COVID-19 situation will vary by region, work environment, physical location, area of responsibility, and many other factors. DND/CAF response will likewise be asymmetrical. Local commanders are empowered to respond to local conditions based on a variety of factors like availability of community services at the local level, availability to access and use necessary technology, and presence at home of children under active care during working hours.

A member of my section tested positive for COVID-19. I was contacted and asked some questions and was deemed low risk and allowed back to work. Should my entire section be self-isolating?

As part of CFHS’ contact tracing efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, contacts are identified as high, medium, or low risk. Only high risk contacts are required to self-isolate for 14-days. Medium risk contacts should self-monitor for 14-days. Low risk contacts should continue with existing control measures.

More information on CFHS’ contact tracing efforts can be found on The Maple Leaf (link: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/maple-leaf/defence/2020/08/contact-tracing-caf-during-covid-19-pandemic.html).

Are CAF members exempt from provincial limits on the number of people who can gather? I am concerned that it is difficult to enforce PHMs at gatherings on my base.

As per the CDS/DM Directive, the local supervisors and chains of command have been granted significant flexibility to make decisions made based on a variety of factors including local public health guidance and the unique nature of roles that need to be performed.

If you feel personnel are not following the public health measures, you are encouraged to bring the issue to your manager or supervisor. If the issue is still not resolved, you can submit a complaint to the Conflict and Complaint Management Services Centre for resolution services. Ultimately, you may submit a grievance to the Office of the DND/CAF Ombudsman.

If I tested positive for COVID-19, do I need to have a negative COVID-19 test before I can return to my office to work on essential files? Or do I just need to complete my quarantine and not have any symptoms?

If you’ve received a positive test result for COVID-19, you must isolate at home, whether or not you have symptoms, and remain isolated for 14 days or as directed by your local health authority. Once you have completed your 14 days of self-isolation, and are sure you are totally symptom free, you will be able to return to the workplace. Once you have returned to the workplace, you must rigorously follow all Public Health Measures (PHMs), such as physical distancing, wearing of a Non-Medical Mask (NMM), and frequent hand washing. If you have further questions concerning returning to the workplace or PHMs, please ask your supervisor or local Chain of Command.

In NB currently, transportation companies who operate in and out of the province, are exempt, but they are required “mandatory periodic testing”. Would it not be prudent to have all drivers who travel outside of the home province and return from performing a CAF task be tested using the antigen test?

Demand for COVID-19 testing exceeds the availability of testing resources, and the procuring and implementing of independent CAF testing capabilities remains a priority. Testing in CAF is a limited resource and is being used deliberately in a manner that supports the Layered Risk Mitigation Strategy (LRMS). Testing to support CAF activities is separate from the testing available through public health authorities that support all Canadians, and is prioritized according to Operational Activities, Force Generation Activities, and Regular Duties. As the capacity and capability for testing improves, the priorities and availability for independent CAF testing will be adjusted accordingly.

If you have further questions concerning the availability of, and priorities for, COVID-19 testing in CAF, you are encouraged to ask your supervisor or local Chain of Command.

I would like to know why it is acceptable for federal employees to wear non-medical (cloth) masks to work when according to the CNESST website “wearing reusable face coverings is NOT appropriate at work.”

All personnel returning to the workplace must fully understand all Public Health Measures (PHMs), including the use of Non-Medical Masks (NMMs). If the rules and regulations concerning the use of NMMs are unclear to you, you are encouraged to raise the issue with your supervisor or local Chain of Command.

If you are a federal government employee, you must abide by federal government standards, even though provincial standards may be different. Provincial standards apply to provincial government employees and employers, while federal government instructions apply to federal government employees and employers.

According to the CNESST website (see here under 31 – 33), for now, workers who must interact with another person within two metres and without a physical barrier must wear a procedural mask, and this applies to all workers and employers of the province of Québec. As a federal government employee, you must follow the federal government policy.

At this time, CNESST is in consultation with Bureau de normalisation du Québec and is developing a certification booklet for NMMs in the workplace.

What is the cycle count of the nucleic acid-based test (PCR) used by medical professionals at CAF bases when a member goes in to be tested for the coronavirus? Are positive test results followed up with a serological (antibody) test done to confirm the results of the first test?

When a member goes to a CAF health center for testing, the test is most often run at a local public health lab. The cycle threshold (Ct) value used for diagnosis of positive infections will be based on that specific lab’s testing device and the assay used. If an unexpected positive result is received for a patient with no symptoms and a low pre-test probability, the clinician can call the lab to discuss the test results and review the Ct. A decision can then be made regarding the next appropriate step. We do not routinely do COVID-19 serological testing in the CAF. There are no public health jurisdictions in Canada where serological testing is done routinely to confirm COVID-19 infection.

What are the protocols around rapid testing? When is it used and what happens if you get a result other than negative?

Several protocols have been developed for point of care testing using the Abbott Panbio Antigen test. These include protocols for 1) diagnosis of COVID-19 infection in symptomatic patients when PCR is not available; 2) Outbreak management when rapid decision-making will assist in slowing spread; and 3) Asymptomatic screening. The Abbott Panbio Antigen test has very good sensitivity, so if a positive result is returned, the patient is managed as a positive COVID-19 case. Based on the public health jurisdiction in which the antigen test is conducted, a PCR test for confirmation may be done as well.

Am I required to wear a mask in DND/CAF buildings?

While great progress has been made in terms of high vaccination rates and adherence to strict Public Health Measures (PHMs), until a sufficient percentage of the global population is fully vaccinated and the risk of transmission drops significantly, DND/CAF will continue to judiciously apply the Layered Risk Mitigation Strategy (LRMS) at DND/CAF facilities.

Masks must be worn in the office if you cannot maintain two metre distance between yourself and other Defence Team members. You are also required to wear a Non-Medical Mask when moving from one location to another inside DND/CAF facilities. Masks may be removed once you reach your destination, as long as you are able to maintain physical distancing.

If your work space arrangements do not allow you to maintain a two-metre distance with other members, please reach out to your manager or local chain of command to discuss whether an alternative set up is possible.

How quickly DND/CAF eases the mask wearing PHM depends on provincial/territorial and regional public health guidance. Please review the latest CDS/DM Directive for updated guidance and information.

As COVID-19 restrictions start to relax across the country, will local chains of command adopt these relaxed provincial/territorial restrictions within the workplace? If mask wearing is optional in certain provinces, will I still have to wear a mask in DND/CAF facilities?

Until a sufficient percentage of the global population is fully vaccinated, and the risk of transmission between individuals drops significantly, we will continue to apply our Layered Risk Mitigation Strategy (LRMS) and enforce PHMs at all DND/CAF locations. In the meantime, DND/CAF will continue to take provincial/territorial (P/T) public health guidance and local conditions into consideration when applying and adjusting Public Health Measures (PHMs) at DND/CAF facilities and locations.

So, while P/T governments may ease restrictions on mask wearing, mask wearing may continue to be enforced at your location. Judicious application of all PHMs remains the default for all Defence Team settings.

For more information, please consult the DM/A-CDS Directive: Reopening Strategy & Summer Posture. To learn more about the PHMs in force at your location, please raise the issue with your manager or local Chain of Command.

I work in an open concept type workspace where two people sit within two metres. People are allowed to unmask at their desk. The single office room has between 10 and 16 people in it at any given time. There have been no upgrades to air filtration and windows cannot be opened. What can be done?

If maintaining a two-metre physical distance is impossible, masks are to be worn by all implicated staff. In addition, all communal and personal surfaces must be routinely disinfected. For more guidance on workplace safety and indoor ventilation during the pandemic, you can find resources from the Government of Canada and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. If you have questions or issues about the implementation of the public health measures at your workplace, please raise the issue with your manager or local Chain of Command.

Given that COVID-19 is transmitted by aerosols, why hasn’t DND/CAF made it mandatory to always wear a mask indoors, including while sitting in open cubicles, in DND/CAF buildings? Other government departments have made mask wearing mandatory at all times (outside closed offices).

As a member of the Defence Team, the policy guiding the application of public health measures in your workplace is the CDS/DM Directive on DND/CAF Reopening Strategy (Summer 2021 Posture), which outlines Public Health Measures (PHMs) in accordance with Public Health Agency of Canada guidance.

Therefore, in situations where a two-metre physical distance is not possible, masks are to be worn by all implicated employees. However, you may remove your mask if:

  • you are alone and there is no possibility of encountering another person;
  • while outdoors where physical distancing of two metres is maintained at all times;
  • indoors where a person is at their normal workstation in a well-ventilated open space at least two metres from others:
  • while doing a CAF fitness test; and other scenarios where wearing a mask is not possible, such as eating or drinking.

If you have more questions about the PHMs in force at your location, please raise the issue with your manager or local Chain of Command.

My allergies present very similar to COVID-19 with one exception, absence of fever. Therefore, prior to entering a building, I would present most of the symptoms. I am fully vaccinated and I wear a mask. Will I need to be tested on a weekly basis until allergy season ends?

Defence Team members, you are encouraged to have an open and honest conversation about your particular situation with your manager and Chain of Command to determine what work arrangement will work best for you and your team moving forward. In accordance with the CDS/DM directive, Defence Team members showing symptoms of COVID-19 will not be granted access to Defence establishments unless they live on a Defence establishment or are present at a Defence establishment to obtain medical services. DND/CAF will continue to follow the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)’s recommendations with regards to COVID-19 testing. CAF members and DND employees will adhere to COVID-19 testing requirements as laid out by the Government of Canada unless exempted by PHAC.

For CAF members, a COVID-19 test is administered when there are clinical indications that a test is required, such as when the member is displaying COVID-19 symptoms or has been identified as requiring testing through contact tracing. CAF members are encouraged to use the Public Health Agency of Canada online self-assessment tool and to follow local medical clinics’ advice if they develop symptoms or they think they need to be tested for COVID-19. CAF members can be provided advice for their specific situation by phone when contacting their respective clinic, based on the results of the self-assessment tool.

With the announcement of required vaccination, will fully vaccinated DND/CAF members still have to wear masks in DND/CAF facilities?

While the Government of Canada intends to require vaccination for DND/CAF members, as announced on August 13, 2021, until a sufficient percentage of the global population is fully vaccinated and the risk of transmission drops significantly, DND/CAF will continue to apply the Layered Risk Mitigation Strategy (LRMS). According to the LRMS, all Public Health Measures (PHMs) must be strictly adhered to, including physical distancing of two metres, the wearing of a non-medical mask, and frequent hand-washing. How quickly the mask restriction is lifted in each DND/CAF facility depends on provincial/territorial and regional public health guidance.

If you have more questions about the PHMs in force at your location, please raise the issue with your manager or local Chain of Command.

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