Risk mitigation tool for workplaces/businesses operating during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Objective: This tool will assist workplaces/businesses in considering risks to employees, customers and clients during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, and provide examples of measures that may be implemented at the workplace/business to mitigate potential risks.

Audience: Employers and business owners.

This tool is not applicable to workplaces where health care is provided. First responders and health care workers should follow the occupational health and safety and infection prevention and control practices within their workplace.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many provinces and territories required workplaces/businesses to close, except those providing essential services and goods. Refer to your provincial or territorial website for the list of essential services and updates on the restriction of non-essential services. As provinces and territories lift or adjust restrictive public health measures, workplaces/businesses should consider risks and identify risk mitigation measures to implement when re-opening or operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. Use this tool along with relevant provincial/territorial health authority recommendations.

Public health measures taken by workplaces/businesses are part of Canada's collective approach to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19. This tool is based on concepts outlined in the guidance developed for community-based measures titled: Community-Based Measures to Mitigate the Spread of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in Canada. It reflects the currently available scientific evidence and expert opinion, and is subject to change as new information on transmissibility, epidemiology, and effectiveness of public health and risk mitigation measures becomes available. It reflects the currently available scientific evidence and expert opinion, and is subject to change as new information on transmissibility, epidemiology, and effectiveness of public health and risk mitigation measures becomes available. Risk mitigation tools have also been developed for child and youth settings, outdoor settings, and mass gatherings (coming soon). Employers should review and revise business continuity plans as needed, prioritize key functions in the event of workplace absenteeism, and ensure emergency contact information is up-to-date.

What are the COVID-19 risks at my workplace/business?

The following facts about COVID-19 and associated questions can help you consider the risks of COVID-19 in your workplace/business.

The risk level is affected by the level of COVID-19 activity in the local community. If there is known COVID-19 activity in your community, the likelihood that it could be introduced into the workplace/business is higher. The risk of COVID-19 introduction and spread is also presumed to be greater if a higher proportion of individuals visit the workplace/business from outside of your community.

COVID-19 spreads from person to person, most commonly through respiratory droplets (e.g., generated by a coughing, sneezing, laughing or talking) during close interactions (i.e., within 2 metres). COVID-19 can be spread by infected individuals who have mild symptoms, or who have not yet or who may never develop symptoms.

COVID-19 can also be spread through touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

COVID-19 can cause more severe illness among people who are 65 and over, and those who have compromised immune systems or other underlying medical conditions.

COVID-19 spread can occur when personal preventive practices are not consistently followed.

How can my workplace/business mitigate COVID-19 risks?

To prevent and/or limit the spread of COVID-19 in community-based settings such as your workplace/business, consider the following risk mitigation principles and measures. Risk mitigation measures that are more protective involve separating people from each other or shared surfaces through physical distancing and physical barriers. Measures that are less protective rely on individuals to consistently follow personal preventive practices (e.g., environmental cleaning, use of personal protective equipment, wearing of non-medical masks or cloth face coverings). In some settings, physical distancing or separation may not be possible. To maximize safety, use a "layered" approach with multiple measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread, including decreasing the number of interactions with others and increasing the safety of interactions. Layering of multiple mitigation measures strengthens the risk mitigation potential overall. The following examples of risk mitigation measures are provided for your consideration. The following list is not exhaustive - you are encouraged to find creative and adaptive ways to mitigate risk in your workplace/business setting that align with public health advice and are respectful of workers.

Discourage people who are ill from entering the workplace/business.

Promote and facilitate personal preventive practices. Everyone plays a part in making workplaces/businesses safer, including employers, employees, contractors, clients, and all others who interact with workplaces/businesses.

Promote physical distancing (keeping a distance of 2 metres from others), which is one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illness.

Create physical barriers between employees/clients when physical distancing is not possible.

Increase ventilation.

Mitigate risks from exposure to high-touch surfaces (i.e., frequently touched by others).

Mitigate risk for people at higher risk of severe illness.

Modify practices to reduce how long employees/clients are in contact with each other and how many employees/clients come into contact with each other.

Should employees and/or clients wear masks?

Should employees wear personal protective equipment (PPE)?

Emergency preparedness and response

For more information, COVID-19 resources for various occupations and industries are available from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).

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