Canadian COVID-19 workplace safety regulations are more stringent than in the United States, and the country continues to impose additional requirements on businesses operating during the pandemic.
In a January 2021 update, Ontario’s Ministry of Labor, Training and Skills Development issued new guidance for businesses operating during the COVID-19 crisis. According to the updated guidelines, Canadian businesses need to develop a safety plan to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace and the following precautions must be taken:
- COVID-19 symptom screening
- Physical distancing and barriers
- Improved ventilation and airflow
- Disinfection of high-touch surfaces
- Use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
Of those control measures, using a symptom screener is a crucial first step. Not only is it an efficient and effective way to stop infection before it gets into the workplace, but COVID-19 screening is mandatory in Canadian workplaces. And, as of February 2021, the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health outlined specific, required screening questions that must be answered before team members can report for their shift.
What does symptom screening entail?
COVID-19 screening is mandatory in Canadian workplaces. Prior to entering the premises, “workers” and “essential visitors” must be “actively screened” for symptoms of COVID-19 and confirm that they have not recently travelled internationally or been exposed to someone who is confirmed or presumed to have COVID-19.
Note: It’s advisable for Canadian businesses to hold onto screening documentation for six months to two years.
What are the mandatory screening questions for Canadian employees?
There are two sets of mandatory screening questions in Canada, depending on whether a team member is under or over 18. Those under 18 must disclose any symptoms of COVID-19, while those over 18 must also attest that they have NOT:
- Travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days
- Been identified as a close contact of someone who currently has COVID-19 in the last 14 days
- Been advised by a doctor, health care provider, or public health unit that they should be isolating
- Received a COVID Alert exposure notification within the last 14 days
What does active screening mean?
Active screening means that the results of a screening assessment must be reviewed prior to determining whether or not someone may enter the workplace. It is not enough for employees to assess themselves and make that determination on their own. Some digital solutions can review and interpret results as well.
Options for screening team members
Employers are free to use any method they prefer to track employee symptoms. It can be as detailed as a daily questionnaire or as simple as a checklist.
“The screening tool's purpose is to enhance public health protection to avoid another lockdown, and to impose consistency and clarity at all workplaces in Ontario, as COVID-19 guidelines are constantly changing.” -Justin P’ng, Fasken Business Law Firm
Many businesses opt to screen people by asking them questions in person before they are allowed to enter. But, this could lead to the violation of healthcare privacy policies and does little for protection in the event of an outbreak since there is no documentation.
This method creates a written record of compliance with employee screening. However, it’s also cumbersome and inconvenient, especially if multiple languages are spoken in the workplace.
An online or text-based COVID-19 screening tool is the most efficient (and environmentally friendly) way to screen employees quickly, in their own language, and keep confidential records safe for the required amount of time.
Difficulties faced by employers
While preemptive screening of employees is an important commonsense step to reducing the spread of COVID-19, implementing that screening can be a challenge, especially in sectors where team members may have limited access to a stable internet connection or struggle with a language barrier.
Furthermore, managers may run into issues with employee skepticism. Many people aren’t comfortable self-reporting information to the government or installing an app that tracks and stores their personal information. There are also healthcare privacy policies that must be considered. To make privacy matters even more complicated, it’s advisable for Canadian businesses to hold onto screening documentation for six months to two years.
Make sure your solution addresses privacy and security
As guidance and regulations around COVID-19 workplace safety continue to evolve, you can trust TeamSense to give you the support you need to manage large workforces safely and efficiently.