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Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood Education

This page includes resources for workplaces in the Early Childhood Education and Care industries on work health and safety, workers’ compensation and COVID-19. We also have information for the broader Education and Training industry.


The Early Childhood Education and Care industries provide  education and care for infants or children, including:


  • preschool education

  • before and/or after school care services

  • child care services

  • childminding services

  • children’s nursery operations, and

  • family day care services


Services may be provided in a range of settings, such as child care centres, preschools and private homes. Generally, it involves facetoface interaction between carers and children.

To ensure this information is as accessible and easy to understand as possible, we refer to ‘employers’ and their responsibilities. However, both provincial and state OHS legislation, duties apply to any person conducting a business which includes employers, but also others who engage workers.

OHS Duties
Workers' Rights
Consultation
Risk Assessment
Vulnerable Workers
Emergency Plans
COVID @ Work
Health Monitoring
Physical Distancing
Hygiene
Cleaning
PPE
Masks
Gloves
Mental Health
Violence @ Work
Working from Home

Duties Under OHS Legislation

There are current public health directions restricting business operations in some jurisdictions both in Canada and the United States. If you want to know what restrictions on business operations apply to your workplace, go to your relevant provincial or state government website. Businesses must only operate to the extent permissible in each province or state. The information provided below outlines measures which cover all aspects of services offered by the industry – depending on what is permissible in your jurisdiction, some sections may not be currently relevant to your business. 

 

If you want to know how OHS legislation apply to you or need help with what to do at your workplace, contact us on 1 866 337 4734 or through our online contact form.

OHS legislation requires you to take care of the health, safety and welfare of your workers, including yourself and other staff, contractors and volunteers, and others (clients, customers, visitors) at your workplace. This includes:


  • providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risk to health and safety

  • providing adequate and accessible facilities for the welfare of workers to carry out their work, and

  • monitoring the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace for the purpose of preventing illness or injury


Duty to workers


You must do what you can to ensure the health and safety of your workers. You must eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19 if reasonably practicable. If you are not able to eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19, you must minimise that risk, as far as is reasonably practicable. Protect workers from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by, for example:


  • considering working from home arrangements

  • requiring workers to practice physical distancing

  • requiring workers to practice good hygiene (e.g., through workplace policies and ensuring access to adequate and well stocked hygiene facilities)

  • requiring workers to stay home when sick, and

  • cleaning the workplace regularly and thoroughly


Duty to other people in the workplace


You must ensure the work of your business does not put the health and safety of other persons (such as customers, clients and visitors) at risk of contracting COVID-19. Protect others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by, for example:


  • requiring them to practice physical distancing, including through contactless deliveries and payments

  • requiring them to practice good hygiene, and

  • requiring others to stay away from the workplace, unless essential (such as family, friends and visitors)


Duty to maintain the workplace and facilities


You must maintain your workplace to ensure the work environment does not put workers and others at risk of contracting COVID-19. Maintain a safe work environment by, for example:


  • cleaning the workplace regularly and thoroughly

  • restructuring the layout of the workplace to allow for physical distancing, and

  • limiting the number of people in the workplace at any given time


You must also provide adequate facilities in your workplace to protect your workers from contracting COVID-19. Facilities that are required include:


  • washroom facilities including adequate supply of soap, water and paper towel

  • hand sanitiser, where it is not possible for workers to wash their hands, and

  • staff rooms that are regularly cleaned and allow for physical distancing


Provide workers with regular breaks to use these facilities, particularly to allow workers to wash their hands.


Duty to provide information, training, instruction and supervision


You must provide your workers with any information or training that is necessary to protect them from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 arising from their work. Information and training may include:


  • providing guidance on how to properly wash hands

  • training workers in how to fit and use any necessary personal protective equipment (PPE)

  • training workers to exercise adequate cleaning practices throughout the day

  • providing workers with instructions on how to set up a safe home workplace, and

  • providing workers with instructions on staying home from work if sick


Duty to consult


You must consult with workers on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19. When consulting, you must give workers the opportunity to express their views and raise OHS concerns. You must take the views of workers into account and advise workers of the outcome of consultation.


Consult with workers:


  • when you conduct a risk assessment

  • when you make decisions on control measures to use to manage the risk of exposure to COVID-19 (e.g. decisions on working from home arrangements, or restricting the workplace to allow for physical distancing)

  • when you make decisions about the adequacy of the workplace facilities to allow for control measures such as physical distancing and hygiene

  • when you propose other changes that may affect the health and safety of workers, and

  • when you change any procedures that have an impact on the OHS of workers


If you and the workers have agreed to procedures for consultation, consultation must be in accordance with those procedures. You must allow workers to express their views and raise OHS issues that may arise directly or indirectly because of COVID-19. You must take the views of workers into account when making decisions and advise workers of your decision.


Workers are most likely to know about the risks of their work. Involving them will help build commitment to your processes and any changes you implement. Consultation does not require consensus or agreement but you must allow your workers to be part of the decision making process. If workers are represented by health and safety representatives you must include them in the consultation process.


Resources and support


For more information on how we can help, select CONTACT US below or call toll free on 866 337 4734 to arrange an appointment with one of our experienced team members today.


Hygiene

There are current public health directions restricting business operations in some jurisdictions both in Canada and the United States. If you want to know what restrictions on business operations apply to your workplace, go to your relevant provincial or state government website. Businesses must only operate to the extent permissible in each province or state. The information provided below outlines measures which cover all aspects of services offered by the industry – depending on what is permissible in your jurisdiction, some sections may not be currently relevant to your business. 

 

If you want to know how OHS legislation apply to you or need help with what to do at your workplace, contact us on 1 866 337 4734 or through our online contact form.

Staff should also be informed about the risk of exposure and good hygiene through increased signage and information. Both the Canadian and US Government Departments of Health have a range of posters and other resources aimed at educating the public about COVID-19. These posters can be placed in client-facing work environments.


The main way COVID-19 spreads from person to person is through contact with respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets may fall directly onto the person’s eyes, nose or mouth if they are in close contact with the infected person. Airborne transmission of COVID-19 can also occur, with the greatest risk in indoor, crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces. A person may also be infected if they touch a surface contaminated with the COVID-19 virus and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes before washing their hands. Research shows that the COVID-19 virus can survive on some surfaces for prolonged periods of time.


A key way you can protect workers and others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is by requiring workers and others to practice good hygiene. Below are measures to ensure good hygiene in your workplace. Remember, you must consult with workers and health and safety representatives on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, including what control measures to put in place in your workplace.


Worker and visitor hygiene


You must direct your workers, customer and others in the workplace to practice good hygiene while at the workplace. Good hygiene requires everyone to wash their hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying them completely, preferably with a clean, single use paper towel. If paper towels are unavailable, other methods such as electric hand dryers can be used, however, hands will still need to be dried completely.


Everyone must wash and dry their hands:


  • before and after eating

  • after coughing or sneezing

  • after going to the toilet, and

  • when changing tasks and after touching potentially contaminated surfaces.


When it is not possible to wash hands, an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol as the active ingredient must be used as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Good hygiene also requires everyone at the workplace to, at all times:


  • cover their coughs and sneezes with their elbow or a clean tissue (and no spitting)

  • avoid touching their face, eyes, nose and mouth

  • dispose of tissues and cigarette butts hygienically, e.g. in closed bins

  • wash their hands completely before and after smoking a cigarette

  • clean and disinfect shared equipment and plant after use

  • wash body, hair (including facial hair) and clothes thoroughly every day, and

  • have no intentional physical contact with other workers or visitors, for example, shaking hands and patting backs.


To enhance good hygiene outcomes:


  • develop infection control policies in consultation with your workers. These policies should outline measures in place to prevent the spread of infectious diseases at the workplace. Communicate these policies to workers

  • train workers on the importance of washing their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying them correctly, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, before entering and exiting a common area

  • place posters near handwashing facilities showing how to correctly wash and dry hands (for example, if hand dryers are used, place posters advising that hands should be dried completely before finishing) and clean hands with sanitiser, and

  • inform workers of workplace hygiene standards that are expected when utilising common areas (cleaning up after yourself, placing rubbish in bins provided, avoiding putting items such as phones on meal surfaces, etc.).


You should put processes in place to regularly monitor and review the implementation of hygiene measures to ensure they are being followed and remain effective. You should also display posters to inform and encourage families to practice good hygiene when they are at your workplace and at home. Both the Canadian and US Government Departments of Health have a range of posters and other resources aimed at educating the public about COVID-19.


What do I need to consider when providing hygiene facilities?


You must ensure there are adequate and accessible facilities to achieve good hygiene and that they are in good working order, are clean and are otherwise safe.


You may need to provide additional washing facilities, change rooms and dining facilities. You must also consider whether there are an adequate number of hand washing and drying stations, in convenient locations, to sustain the increase in workers’ practicing good hygiene. You may need to provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser in appropriate locations, such as entry and exits, if there are limited hand washing facilities available.


Washroom facilities must be properly stocked and have adequate supplies of toilet paper, soap, water, and drying facilities (preferably single-use paper towels). They must also be kept clean and in good working order.


When determining what facilities you need, consider the number of workers on site, the shift arrangements and when access to these facilities is required.  If you have temporarily down-sized worker numbers in response to COVID-19 and these will now be increased, you must take this into account to determine the facilities you need before workers return to work.


If creating a new eating or common area to enable physical distancing, you must ensure these areas are accessible from the workplace and adequately equipped (e.g drinking water, rubbish bins), and protected from the elements, contaminants and hazards. You should also consider opening windows or adjusting air-conditioning for more ventilation in common areas and limiting or reducing recirculated air-conditioning where possible.


Why are paper towels preferred over hand dryers?


Paper towels are preferable as they can reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 by drying the hands more thoroughly than hand dryers. Hand dryers can still be used, however, there is an increased risk of transmission if hands are not dried properly.


I am providing paper towels in my workplace. What else should I do?


Providing paper towels to dry your hands after washing them is better than using hand dryers because they can dry your hands more thoroughly. If you provide single used paper towels at your workplace, remember:


  • the paper towels should be replenished as required, and

  • used paper towels should be disposed of in a waste bin that is regularly emptied to keep the area clean, tidy and safe.


Wastes (including used paper towels) should be double bagged and set aside in a safe place for at least 72 hours before disposal into general waste facilities.


What if I can’t provide paper towels?


If paper towels cannot be provided, then hand dryers may be used to dry hands. You must train workers on how to dry their hands. Placing posters near hand dryers may assist with communicating the need for hands to be dried completely. If hands are not dried completely, good hygiene will not be achieved, and the hand washing will be ineffective.


Frequently touched areas of the hand dryers (i.e. buttons to activate the drying mechanism of the hand dryer) and the entire body of the dryer should be cleaned regularly. Nearby surfaces (such as the sink and taps) should also be cleaned regularly to remove any germs that may have been spread when drying hands.


Resources and support


For more information on how we can help, select CONTACT US below or call toll free on 866 337 4734 to arrange an appointment with one of our experienced team members today.

Physical Distancing

There are current public health directions restricting business operations in some jurisdictions both in Canada and the United States. If you want to know what restrictions on business operations apply to your workplace, go to your relevant provincial or state government website. Businesses must only operate to the extent permissible in each province or state. The information provided below outlines measures which cover all aspects of services offered by the industry – depending on what is permissible in your jurisdiction, some sections may not be currently relevant to your business. 

 

If you want to know how OHS legislation apply to you or need help with what to do at your workplace, contact us on 1 866 337 4734 or through our online contact form.

What is physical distancing and how does it prevent the spread of COVID-19?


Physical distancing (also referred to as ‘social distancing’) refers to the requirement that people distance themselves from others. COVID-19 spreads from person to person through contact with droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets may fall directly into the person’s eyes, nose or mouth if they are in close contact with the infected person. A person may also be infected if they touch a surface contaminated with the droplets and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes before washing their hands.


Current health advice states that in order to reduce the risk of contact and droplet spread from a person, directly or indirectly, and from contaminated surfaces, people should maintain physical distance of at least 2 metres, practice good hand hygiene and engage in routine cleaning and disinfection of surfaces.


Physical distancing can also include requirements for there to be 4 square metres of space per person in a room or enclosed space, as well as limits on gathering sizes. These requirements differ between industries and between provinces and states. For example, some provinces and states have updated public health directions to adjust physical distancing rules in line with local circumstances, such as revising the one person per 4 square metres rule to one person per 2 square metres in some circumstances. For more information about physical distancing requirements applicable to your business, go to your relevant provincial or state government website.


Do I need to implement physical distancing measures in my workplace?


Yes. It is your duty under work health and safety laws to manage the risk of a person in your workplace spreading and contracting COVID-19, including the risk that persons with COVID-19 enter the workplace. Physical distancing is one of the key ways to lower the risk of COVID-19 being spread or contracted at your workplace.


The risk of COVID-19 should be treated in the same way as any other workplace hazard – by applying a risk management approach. In consultation with your workers, including volunteers, and their representatives (e.g. health and safety representatives (HSRs)), you will need to assess the likelihood and degree of harm people may experience if exposed to COVID-19 and then implement the most effective control measures that are reasonably practicable to manage the risk. The control measures you implement should include outcomes that support physical distancing and operate alongside measures encouraging good hygiene amongst workers and others as well as regular and thorough cleaning of the workplace.


To meet your OHS duty you should be continually monitoring and reviewing the risks to the health and safety of workers and others, as well as the effectiveness of control measures put in place to eliminate or minimise these risks. You must also assess any new or changed risks arising from COVID-19, for example customer aggression, high work demand or working in isolation. You may also need to comply with physical distancing measures issued under public health directions in your province or state. Each province and state has directions that reflect local circumstances. For more information about physical distancing requirements, go to your relevant provincial or state government website.


How do the public health directions in my province or state interact with my OHS duty?


You must comply with your province or state’s public health directions that apply to your business. Your OHS duty is to do all that you reasonably can to manage the risks of a person contracting and/or spreading COVID-19 in your workplace. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to implement control measures in order to meet your OHS duty that go beyond the minimum requirements stated in public health directions or advised by public health authorities. For example, public health directions may state you can have up to 10 customers in your shop at any one time. However, in undertaking your risk assessment you may determine that due to the layout of the workplace and your work processes, having 10 customers in the store would not effectively support physical distancing outcomes. Instead, limiting your store to 8 customers at a time would ensure everyone can maintain a physical distance of 2 metres from each other.


How do I determine which physical distancing measures to implement to minimise the risk of COVID 19 spreading in my workplace?


To determine which physical distancing measures will be most effective in your workplace, you will need to undertake a risk assessment. A risk assessment is part of the risk management process which involves identifying where the risk arises in your workplace, assessing the risks (including the likelihood of them happening), controlling the risks and reviewing these controls regularly. These steps remain the same whether you are conducting a risk assessment in relation to work health and safety generally, or specifically in relation to COVID-19. In order to determine the most effective physical distancing measures you will need to:


  • identify all activities or situations where people in your workplace may be in close proximity to each other

  • assess the level of risk that people in these activities or situations may contract and/or spread COVID-19 in your workplace, and

  • determine what control measures are reasonably practicable to implement based on the assessed level of risk


Remember, you must consult with workers, including volunteers, and their representatives (e.g. health and safety representatives) on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, including what control measures to put in place in your workplace.


What physical distancing measures do I need to implement in my workplace?


Below are suggested measures to ensure physical distancing is achieved in your industry. Certain activities may not be permissible or there may be specific requirements in your province or state at this time and therefore some of the proposed measures may not be relevant to your workplace. For more information about physical distancing requirements, go to your relevant provincial or state government website.


Remember, you must do all that is reasonably practicable to manage the risk of people contracting and/or spreading COVID-19. Also remember, you must consult with workers and their representatives (e.g. health and safety representatives (HSRs)) on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, including what control measures to put in place in your workplace.


Adult to adult interactions in early education facilities?


The current health advice is that undertaking physical distancing involves each person having 4 square metres of space and maintaining a physical distance of at least 2 metres from others where possible. This means that in order to fulfil your work health and safety duty you must, so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure all adults have 4 square metres of space each and maintain a physical distance of 2 metres from other adults in all areas of the facility. This includes staff facilities such as kitchens and break rooms and in play rooms.


Adults do not need to undertake physical distancing when interacting with or providing care to children. This means you do not need to count or include children in implementing physical distancing measures for adults. Children do not need to undertake physical distancing. The current advice is that in early education facilities including rooms, corridors and outdoor play areas, it is not appropriate or practical to provide each child with 4 square metres of space or require them to maintain 2 metres from other children or from an adult who is providing care or interacting with them.


However, you may find that separating children into small groups throughout the facility and utilising both indoor and outdoor spaces during the day will make it easier for workers (and other adults) to maintain their distance from other workers and adults. Deciding what physical distancing measures are reasonably practicable to implement in your facility will depend on all the circumstances including the safety, educational and wellbeing needs of children. See also our information on Risk Assessments


Drop off and pick up periods


Review your drop off and pick up procedures to determine whether you can reduce the number of workers and parents or guardians gathered at the same time.


  • depending on your facility, parents or guardians may naturally stagger their drop off and pick up times

  • if there is a set drop off and pick up time, consider whether these periods can be extended or whether you can allocate times to certain groups


Consider whether you will need to request parents or guardians to modify their actions once they enter the facility to either pick up or drop off their child.


  • request parents and guardians to maintain 2 metres between themselves and other adults when at the facility

  • rearrange the foyer or waiting area where possible to encourage parents or guardians to achieve the maximum space per adult

  • request parents or guardians to minimise time spent in the facility and not to congregate in groups

  • put up signs and posters to remind parents or guardians about physical distancing. Consideration needs to be given to how to communicate with those for whom English is not their first language

  • require parents or guardians who enter the facility to wash their hands with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand sanitiser and again when exiting

  • whilst it is important for parents or guardians to be able to discuss their child with workers, particularly at the end of the day, extended face-to-face communication should be minimised. Require workers, where appropriate, to use other methods of communication such as communication books, phone messages, emails or other communication apps. If a non face-to-face option is not possible, ensure face-to-face time is conducted at an appropriate distance and is limited, that is make sure the discussion does not go on for longer than it needs to


Worker and children interactions


It is advised that in early education facilities, it is not appropriate or practical to provide children with 4 square metres of space or require them to distance themselves 2 metres from other children or from an adult who is providing care or interacting with them. However as worker to worker interactions are heavily influenced by their joint care and supervision of children, you are encouraged to implement measures that maximise the distance between groups of children. This will help workers maintain their distance from each other. Consider implementing the following measures where they are reasonably practicable, understanding that these measures will depend on the developmental, care and educational needs of children:


  • staggering play times

  • changing frequency, or using larger spaces for group mat times (e.g. outside)

  • organizing small group play. You may need to redesign the layout of the room and the placement of children’s activities to encourage small group play. Consider different options to allow people to naturally spread out. Set up more individual activities throughout the room. For example, rather than having all of your books and blocks on one shelf, set them up in separate areas throughout the room where possible. Limit the number of chairs at a table to reduce the number of children that can play together - e.g. two chairs to a table

  • wherever possible (e.g. weather dependent) and where you have appropriate staff numbers for adequate supervision, consider operating an indoor/outdoor program for a longer period. This provides more space for the children and the setup of more activities for children to engage in

  • if you are not able to run an indoor/outdoor program, consider spending more time outdoors and the placement of activities across the outdoor space. A greater range of activities may also facilitate workers being more spread out

  • consider the setup when children are eating – look at having fewer workers at each table and use more tables to allow space between children.  Try and maximise the space between each child. This ensures that where more than one worker is required at the table to assist children to eat, workers can maintain an appropriate distance from each other

  • if you have limited tables and normally have all children eating at the same time, consider staggered timings of snacks and lunch over a longer period of time, and clean thoroughly between sittings, and

  • look at the spacing of cots and highchairs, keeping them well apart. This ensures that workers can maintain an appropriate distance from each other when attending to children.


If changing the physical layout of the workplace, your layout must allow for workers and children to enter, exit and move about the workplace both under normal working conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable.


Staff only areas


  • where possible, provide each worker with 4 square metres of space in enclosed areas in accordance with general health advice. To achieve this, calculate the area of the enclosed space (length multiplied by width in metres) and divide by 4. This will provide you with the maximum number of adults you should have in the space at any one time. Where the nature of work means you are not able to provide 4 square metres of space per adult, you need to implement other physical distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19

  • to help you achieve 4 square metres of space per worker (or where not reasonable, to achieve the maximum space per worker) limit the number of workers in worker areas by:requiring office/ administrative workers to work from home where possible restricting access to worker areas to workers only displaying a sign that states the maximum number of workers allowed in an enclosed space at any one time reduce the number of workers utilising staff common areas at a given time – e.g. by staggering meal breaks and start times, and consider providing separate amenities for workers and others in the workplace – for example, separate bathroom facilities for staff and children

  • direct staff to keep 2 metres of distance between them in accordance with general health advice where possible. To achieve the best outcomes for physical distancing:implement measures in combination with measures for 4 square metres spacing, as set out above ans put signs around worker areas to identify 2 metres distance, and require staff to use other methods such as mobile phone, computer messaging systems or teleconferencing to communicate rather than face to face interaction where appropriate

  • You may need to redesign the layout of worker areas and areas frequented by staff to keep at least 2 metres apart when performing work. This can be achieved by:spreading out furniture and staff desks where possible, and creating specific pathways for entering and exiting areas using floor or wall markings

  • if changing the physical layout of any areas, your layout must allow for staff and others to enter, exit and move about both under normal working conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable


Staff gatherings and training


Postpone or cancel non-essential gatherings, meetings or training. If gatherings, meetings or training are essential:


  • use non face-to-face options to conduct – e.g. electronic communication such as tele and videoconferencing

  • if a non face-to-face option is not possible, ensure face-to-face time is limited, that is make sure the gathering, meeting or training goes for no longer than it needs to

  • hold the gathering, meeting or training it in spaces that enable workers to keep at least 2 metres apart and with 4 square metres of space per person – e.g. outdoors or in large conference rooms

  • limit the number of attendees in a gathering, meeting or training. This may require, for example, multiple training sessions to be held, and

  • ensure adequate ventilation if held indoors


Deliveries, contractors and visitors attending the workplace


  • reduce visitors to the absolute minimum, including cancelling incursions. Exclude people from entering your facilities who are at a high risk, including the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions

  • other non-essential visits to the workplace should be cancelled or postponed

  • minimise the number of workers attending to deliveries and contractors as much as possible

  • delivery drivers and other contractors who need to attend the workplace, to provide maintenance or repair services or perform other essential activities, should be given clear instructions of your requirements while they are on site

  • ensure handwashing facilities, or if not possible, alcohol-based hand sanitiser, is readily available for workers after physically handling deliveries

  • direct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to remain in vehicles and use contactless methods such as mobile phones to communicate with your workers wherever possible

  • direct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before handling products being delivered

  • use, and ask delivery drivers and contractors to use, electronic paper work where possible, to minimize physical interaction. Where possible, set up alternatives to requiring signatures. For instance, see whether a confirmation email or a photo of the loaded or unloaded goods can be accepted as proof of delivery or collection (as applicable). If a pen or other utensil is required for signature you can ask that the pen or utensil is cleaned or sanitised before use. For pens, you may wish to use your own


On-going review and monitoring


  • if physical distancing measures introduce new health and safety risks (e.g. because they impact communication or mean that less people are doing a task), you need to manage those risks too

  • put processes in place to regularly monitor and review the implementation of physical distancing measures to ensure they are being followed and remain effective


Do workers need to practice physical distancing when on a lunch break or when travelling to and from work?


Yes. Workers must always comply with any provincial or state public health directions or orders. This includes maintaining a physical distance of 2 metres between people. In some provinces and states there are strict limitations on gatherings in public places. This means that in some circumstances, workers cannot eat lunch together in a park or travel together in a vehicle to and from work. You should refer to your provincial or state health authority for further information on specific restrictions in place under public health directions or orders in your province or state.


My workers need to travel in a vehicle together for work purposes. How do they practice physical distancing?


You must reduce the number of workers travelling together in a vehicle for work purposes. You should ensure that only two people are in a 5 seat vehicle – the driver and a worker behind the front passenger seat. Only one worker should be in a single cab vehicle. These measures may mean:


  • more of your vehicles are on the road at one time

  • more workers are driving and for longer periods than usual (if driving by themselves)


Because of this, you should review your procedures and policies for vehicle maintenance and driver safety to ensure they are effective and address all possible OHS risks that arise when workers drive for work purposes. If workers are required to travel together for work purposes and the trip is longer than 15 minutes, air conditioning must be set to external airflow rather than to recirculation or windows should be opened for the duration of the trip. You must also clean vehicles more frequently, no matter the length of the trip, but at least following each use by workers. See also our information on Cleaning.


Resources and support


For more information on how we can help, select CONTACT US below or call toll free on 866 337 4734 to arrange an appointment with one of our experienced team members today.


Mental Health

There are current public health directions restricting business operations in some jurisdictions both in Canada and the United States. If you want to know what restrictions on business operations apply to your workplace, go to your relevant provincial or state government website. Businesses must only operate to the extent permissible in each province or state. The information provided below outlines measures which cover all aspects of services offered by the industry – depending on what is permissible in your jurisdiction, some sections may not be currently relevant to your business. 

 

If you want to know how OHS legislation apply to you or need help with what to do at your workplace, contact us on 1 866 337 4734 or through our online contact form.

OHS legislation cover risks to psychological (mental) health too. This is a stressful time for everyone, and you must do what is reasonably practicable to eliminate and reduce the psychological risks to workers and others at the workplace.


Under OHS laws, you must eliminate or minimize the risk to psychological health and safety arising from the work carried out by your business as much as you reasonably can. To determine what measures to put in place, you should carry out a risk assessment and consider all the risks to psychological health in your workplace. You must also consult your workers and their representatives. Workers often know what the issues are and have ideas about how to manage them.


Once you have consulted workers, determined appropriate measures and put them in place, continue to review how you are managing the risks to check your measures are working. This is an unprecedented time for all employers and workers. You may wish to seek professional advice on your OHS duties and how to meet them in your particular circumstances. The OHS regulator in your province or state may also be able to provide further advice.


What causes psychological injury? What are psychosocial hazards?


A psychosocial hazard is anything in the design or management of work that causes stress. Stress is the physical, mental and emotional reaction a person has when we perceive the demands of their work exceed their ability or resources to cope. Work-related stress if prolonged or severe can cause both psychological and physical injury. Stress itself is not an injury. For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced and increased a range of psychosocial hazards in the workplace, at a time when a range of other non-work related psychosocial risks are also occurring (uncertainty about future employment, social isolation etc.). Psychosocial hazards arising from COVID-19 include:


Exposure to physical hazards and poor environmental conditions


  • concern about exposure to COVID-19 at work

  • poor management of OHS risks, lack of equipment and resources, such as insufficient appropriate PPE

  • exposure to poor conditions such as heat, cold or noise in temporary workplaces


Exposure to violence, aggression, traumatic events and discrimination


  • increased work-related violence, aggression and incivility from patients, customers and members of the public

  • serious illness or death of colleagues or clients e.g. nursing home deaths due to COVID-19

  • racism, discrimination or stigma stemming from COVID-19

  • self-isolation as a result of suspected workplace exposure


Increased work demand


  • increased workloads e.g. supermarket home delivery drivers doing more deliveries and longer hours

  • increased time at work e.g. additional shifts as production moves 24/7 to meet increased demands

  • increased workload e.g. because of increased cleaning requirements or reduction of workers in workplace due to physical distancing requirements

  • work required to adjust to rapid change e.g. buying new equipment or setting up new procedures


Low support and isolated work


  • working from home or isolation from others due to physical distancing or isolation requirements results in feelings of not being supported

  • reduction in number of workers at workplace completing physical tasks to maintain physical distancing requirements

  • failure (perceived or real) of employers not implementing new policies and procedure to address new working arrangements


Poor workplace relationships


  • increased risk of workplace bullying, aggression and harassment as pandemic continues

  • workplace racism, discrimination, or stigma, including towards those that have had COVID-19 or are perceived to be a greater risk to others

  • deterioration of workplace relationships as competing demands lead to less regular and effective two-way communication

  • decreased opportunity for workplace social connections and interactions


Poor organisational change management


  • lack of planning as a result of the pace of the pandemic

  • continual restructures to address the effects of COVID-19 and a corresponding failure to provide information and training, consulting and communicating with or supporting workers (eg. manufacturing companies making different products or redeploying staff to meet changes in demand)

  • insufficient consideration of the potential OHS and performance impacts due to COVID-19


Increased emotional distress


  • limitations on workers offering the same assistance to colleagues or clients they normally would or witnessing others’ distress in situations where they can’t access their normal services or support eg. a cancer ward in a hospital has restricted visitors to reduce the risk to patients. The nurses see their patients and family struggle with this isolation.


How can I eliminate and manage risks to psychological health?


You should manage psychosocial risks in the same way as physical risks. Eliminating or minimizing physical risks will also help to manage many psychosocial risks. See also our section about conducting Risk Assessments for COVID-19.


Tips for managing stress from COVID-19


  • regularly ask your workers how they are going and if anything is stressing them

  • where workers are distressed about the challenging conditions caused by the pandemic, acknowledge their feelings about the situation and reassure workers they are doing what they can in the circumstances  stay informed with information from official sources and regularly communicate or share this information with workers

  • consult your workers and representatives on any risks to their psychological health and physical health and safety

  • support innovations to address the psychosocial risks where you reasonably can

  • provide workers with a point of contact to discuss their concerns

  • make workplace information available in a central place

  • inform workers about their entitlements if they become unfit for work or have caring responsibilities

  • inform workers about their rights under OHS legislation, including the right to stop work in certain circumstances and the right not to be discriminated against or disadvantaged for raising work health and safety concerns in the workplace

  • proactively support workers who you identify to be more at risk of workplace psychological injury (e.g. frontline workers or those working from home), and

  • refer workers to appropriate work related mental health and wellbeing support services (such as employee assistance programs)


Non work-related causes of stress


There are things that may stress your workers during the COVID-19 pandemic which may not be work related. Even though you may not have legal obligations in relation to that stress, you should take this into account, and if you are able to, offer workers increased support and flexibility to get through this difficult time. These stressors could include some or all of the following:


  • financial stress e.g. from reduced hours, loss of employment (such as their own secondary employment or their partners)

  • balancing work and caring responsibilities e.g. from trying to work while also meeting the needs of children and others unable to attend their usual activities or care arrangements

  • concern for vulnerable family members/friends e.g. from concerns they might get the virus or increased emotional stress at not being able to visit and assist elderly relatives

  • change to activities that support good mental health e.g. reduced exercise because of closure of gyms, reduced holidays because of travel limitations and reduced social interactions


My workers are worried about catching coronavirus. What should I do?


You should talk to your workers and understand more about their concerns. Once you understand their concerns, ensure you are doing all you reasonably can to eliminate and manage those concerns. For some workers, being more informed about COVID-19 may help ease their concerns. Provide them with relevant information on COVID-19 and remind them of all the measures you are taking in the workplace to reduce possible exposure. You should also remind them of all the services that are available to them for support (e.g. your employee assistance program). It might also be helpful for them to talk to their treating medical practitioners, such as their GP.


What can I do about customer aggression and the stress it’s causing my workers?


See our information on Violence @ Work.


My staff are working from home. How do I look after their mental health?


The duties under the OHS legislation apply to all workplaces, including where a worker is working from home. When you consider the risks to your workers' psychological health and the control measures you will implement to eliminate or minimise those hazards, you need to do this for all your workplaces, including home workplaces. The same things may lead to stress working from home as at the usual workplace, but the controls you put in place may need adjusting (e.g. you might replace a regular staff morning tea, with a weekly email update or videoconference to keep people connected). Where workers are working from home you should consider the tasks you have asked workers to perform from home and whether doing these in relative isolation could cause stress, and what you can do to minimise that stress.


Before you implement any control measures for working from home, you must consult your staff about how they are going, anything that is stressing them and what you can do to minimise that stress. For those working from home, it might be particularly helpful to consult individually, although that may not always be possible. What is essential though, is that there is regular and meaningful communication with your staff, including by telephone and videoconference where you can. Make sure you frequently check in on how they are going and if anything has changed. You should also make sure they know who to talk to if they need additional support or are feeling concerned. See also our information on Working from Home.


What should I do about bullying, harassment and strained relationships in the workplace?


Talk to your workers, identify whether there is anything in their work that is causing strain, for example competing business demands. If possible, address the cause of the strain before it damages working relationships. If bullying, has occurred, follow your bullying policy. You can manage the risk of workplace bullying by taking a proactive approach to identify early, any unreasonable behaviour and situations likely to increase the risk of workplace bullying occurring. You should implement control measures to manage these risks, and monitor and review the effectiveness of these measures. This could include activities such as:


  • regularly consulting with workers and health and safety representatives to find out if bullying is occurring or if there are factors likely to increase the risk of workplace bullying

  • setting the standard of workplace behaviour, for example through a code of conduct or workplace bullying policy

  • designing safe systems of work by clearly defining jobs and providing workers with the resources, information and training they need to carry out their work safely

  • implementing workplace bullying reporting and response procedures

  • developing productive and respectful workplace relationships through good management practices and effective communication

  • providing information and training on workplace bullying policies and procedures, available support and assistance, and how to prevent and respond to workplace bullying

  • prioritising measures that foster and protect the psychological health of employees


Your provincial or state OHS regulator can provide support and advice on how to manage the risks in your business.


Resources and support


For more information on how we can help, select CONTACT US below or call toll free on 866 337 4734 to arrange an appointment with one of our experienced team members today.


Masks

There are current public health directions restricting business operations in some jurisdictions both in Canada and the United States. If you want to know what restrictions on business operations apply to your workplace, go to your relevant provincial or state government website. Businesses must only operate to the extent permissible in each province or state. The information provided below outlines measures which cover all aspects of services offered by the industry – depending on what is permissible in your jurisdiction, some sections may not be currently relevant to your business. 

 

If you want to know how OHS legislation apply to you or need help with what to do at your workplace, contact us on 1 866 337 4734 or through our online contact form.

Both the Canadian and US government health departments does not generally recommend the wearing of face masks by healthy people in the community. However, there may be occasions when it is recommended that the general public wear face masks where there is community transmission and physical distancing is difficult to maintain. The main benefit of wearing a mask is to protect others. If the person wearing the mask is unknowingly infected, wearing a mask will reduce the chances of them passing the virus on to others.


Some provinces and states have issued directions about wearing face masks in public and other specific settings. This is based on the local situation. It is important that you keep up to date with recommendations and directions that apply nationally, and in your province or state, and ensure that these are followed at your workplace.


Face masks, in combination with other personal protective equipment, can be an effective control measure for workers when it is not possible to maintain physical distancing from symptomatic people (for example, health care and aged care). The type of face mask used will depend on the setting. For example, respirator face masks (P2 or N95) are usually only required for health care workers when carrying out clinical procedures that generate aerosols. Wearing a face mask may also be appropriate in some non-health care settings or workplaces. For example,


  • in the cleaning industry if a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 is in the area to be cleaned (e.g. a hotel room), or

  • where directed or recommended by the province or state (e.g. under public health orders or in areas where there is community transmission)


Where face masks are provided at the workplace, workers must be trained in how to fit, use and dispose of them appropriately.


What are surgical masks?


Surgical masks are loose-fitting, generally disposable masks that form a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and the immediate environment. Surgical masks do not achieve a close seal to the wearer's face, however are useful in limiting the spread of large particles/droplets from an infected person (such as cough or sneeze spray). Single use surgical masks are designed for medical settings and are appropriate for most health care scenarios.


What are cloth masks?


A cloth mask is a nose and mouth covering made from a washable fabric such as cotton or denim. Cloth masks may be recommended for wearing by the general public where there is community transmission and where it is difficult to maintain physical distancing. It is recommended that cloth masks be properly constructed to ensure they provide adequate protection and are handled and washed appropriately.


What are high particulate respirator (P2 or N95) masks?


P2 and N95 masks are designed to help reduce respiratory exposure to airborne contaminants. They are used when there is a high probability of transmission from particles or droplets in the air. P2 and N95 masks must have a good facial fit to be effective. Workers must be trained in how to fit, use and dispose of P2 and N95 masks.


For COVID-19, P2 or N95 masks should only be used in health care settings in certain circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased demand for P2 masks. This extra demand is leading to fake respiratory protective equipment entering both the Canadian and US market. Contact your local OHS regulator for key things to check to ensure that masks meet the required standards and what to do if you come across a mask that is not fit for purpose.


Do I need to provide masks to workers?


For most businesses, there will be no need to provide face masks. Both the Canadian and US government health departments does not generally recommend the wearing of face masks by healthy people in the community. In many cases, providing face masks as a control measure against COVID-19 is only required in health care and certain other settings. However, it may be recommended that the general public wear face masks where there is community transmission and it is difficult to maintain physical distancing. It is important that you keep up to date with the recommendations and directions that apply nationally, and in your province or state, and ensure that these are followed at your workplace.


If you decide you want your workers to wear face masks, you must provide them. You must also provide appropriate training and instruction on how to put on, wear, remove and dispose of the mask. Fit checking is very important to ensure that the mask is effective. Information about using a mask is provided by the manufacturer. It is also important to maintain good hand hygiene and physical distancing even if you choose to provide a face mask for your workers. If a worker has been provided training and instruction about using a mask, they must comply with that training and those instructions.


Single-use surgical masks or properly constructed cloth masks may be used. To ensure their effectiveness, surgical masks must be replaced frequently. Cloth masks must be regularly and thoroughly washed and dried.


Can I direct a worker to wear a face mask?


You can direct a worker to wear a face mask if you, in consultation with those workers, decide it necessary to minimise the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Both the Canadian and US government health departments does not generally recommend the wearing of face masks by healthy people in the community. However, there may be occasions when it is recommended that the general public wear face masks where there is community transmission and physical distancing is difficult to maintain. The main benefit of wearing a mask is to protect other people. If the person wearing the mask is unknowingly infected, wearing a mask will also reduce the chance of them passing the virus on to others.


It is important that you keep up to date with the recommendations and directions that apply nationally, and in your province or state, and ensure that these are followed at your workplace. Be aware that the inappropriate or incorrect use of face masks may increase the risk of COVID-19 and may result in new OHS risks. Workers required to wear a mask must be trained in how to wear, remove and dispose of masks, including performing good hand hygiene (washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds) before fitting the mask and before and after taking it off. Masks also need to be replaced frequently and if multi-use stored correctly, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.


You will need to ensure that appropriate facilities are provided if masks are used at the workplace. This includes appropriate hand washing facilities and a closed bin to dispose of used masks. Single-use surgical masks may be a good option for most workplaces. However, properly constructed cloth masks may be considered if they are replaced frequently and appropriate laundering arrangements are in place.

Masks on their own will not control the COVID-19 virus. As with all other PPE, masks must be used in conjunction with other control measures such as good hand hygiene (washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds) and physical distancing – keeping everyone at the workplace at least 2 metres physically apart.


Can I direct a worker not to wear a mask?


Both the Canadian and US government health departments does not generally recommend the wearing of face masks by healthy people in the community. However, there may be occasions when it is recommended that the general public wear face masks where there is community transmission and physical distancing is difficult to maintain. The main benefit of wearing a mask is to protect other people. If the person wearing the mask is unknowingly infected, wearing a mask will also reduce the chance of them passing the virus on to others. Some workers may want to wear a mask even if you decide that it is an unnecessary control measure for your workplace.


This is a stressful time for everyone and some workers may be wearing the mask because they feel unsure or anxious about their health. You should consult with workers on this issue and find out why they want to wear a mask at work. You should also inform workers of the control measures that have been implemented in the workplace to minimise the workers' exposure to the COVID-19 virus.


Whether you can direct an employee not to wear a mask will depend on whether the direction is permitted by the relevant OHS legislation or is otherwise lawful and reasonable. This will need to be determined on a case by case basis depending on the circumstances. However, if your worker is working on their own at home and using their own masks, it is unlikely the direction would be reasonable. Similarly, if the worker is a frontline health worker, you must not direct them not to wear an appropriate face mask.


The important thing is that you have actively considered whether a mask is an appropriate control measure in minimising exposure to the COVID-19 virus and have done so in consultation with workers, in accordance with any government advice, and in combination with other reasonably practicable, known control measures such as good hand hygiene (washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds) and physical distancing – keeping everyone at the workplace at least 2 metres physically apart.


How do I put on, remove and dispose of a face mask?


If a face mask is going to be used at the workplace, you must provide workers with instruction and training on how to use them safely. Instructions for effective use of a face mask will be provided by the manufacturer. You should always follow the instructions for use and storage of face masks. Disposable face masks should only be used once and then disposed of appropriately (refer to 'How to dispose of a face mask' below). They should also be replaced if they become soiled or damp. The manufacturer will provide details on how to put on and take off your face mask. If you do not have these, you can follow the instructions below. If workers are also wearing gloves, they will need to put their mask on before their gloves.


How to put on a face mask


  1. clean your hands thoroughly with soap and water (for a minimum of 20 seconds) or hand sanitiser before touching the mask or removing it from its packaging. Dry your hands and make sure you do not touch any surfaces (like opening a door) before you handle the mask

  2. remove the mask from its packaging and make sure the mask has no obvious tears, holes or faults. Avoid touching the front of the mask

  3. identify the top of the mask (generally it has a stiff bendable edge that will mould to the shape of your nose) and the front of the mask (normally a mask is coloured on the front) with the white side towards your face

  4. if your mask has ear loops, hold the mask by the ear loops and place a loop around each ear. If your mask has ties bring the mask to nose level and place the ties over the crown of your head and tie with a bow (leave the bottom set of ties at this time)

  5. if your mask has a band, hold the mask in your hands with the nose piece or top of the mask at your fingertips, the headbands will hang loosely below your hands, then bring the mask to your nose level and pull the top strap over your head to rest on the crown of your head, then pull the bottom strap all the way over your head to rest at the nape of your neck

  6. pinch the stiff nose piece to the shape of your nose

  7. if your face mask has ties take the bottom ties (one in each hand) and tie at the nape of your neck with a bow

  8. adjust the bottom of the mask over your mouth and under your chin


How to remove a face mask


  1. clean your hands thoroughly with soap and water (for a minimum of 20 seconds) or hand sanitiser before touching the mask. Dry your hands and avoid touching the front of the mask

  2. if you are wearing gloves you should remove your gloves and wash your hands before removing your mask. See our information on Gloves for how to remove your gloves

  3. only touch the ear loops, ties or bands

  4. if your mask has ear loops hold both of the ear loops and gently lift and pull the mask away from you and away from your face

  5. if your mask has ties untie the bottom bow first (at the nape of your neck), then untie the top bow and pull the mask away from your face as the ties are loosened

  6. if your mask has bands lift the bottom strap over your head first, then pull the top strap over your head and pull the mask away from you and away from your face

  7. appropriately dispose of the face mask (refer below)

  8. clean your hands thoroughly with soap and water (for a minimum of 20 seconds) or hand sanitiser


How to dispose of a face mask


Unless contaminated, masks can be disposed of with the general waste, preferably a closed bin. A closed bin is a bin with a fitted lid. Where the mask is contaminated it should be disposed of in a closed bin, preferably one that does not need to be touched to place a contaminated mask inside. A bin with a foot pedal or other hands-free mechanism to open the lid would be appropriate. The bin for contaminated masks should contain two bin liners to ensure the waste is double bagged. Double bagging minimises any exposure to the person disposing of the waste.


A mask would be considered contaminated if it:


  • has been worn by a symptomatic worker or visitor to the workplace, or

  • has been worn by a close contact of a confirmed COVID case, or

  • is visibly soiled or damp


Where a closed bin is not available, the contaminated mask should be placed in a sealed bag (e.g. a ziplock bag) before disposal into the bin.  The sealed bag and a single bin liner are considered equivalent to double bagging. It is important to follow good hand hygiene after removing and disposing of your mask. If you have a case of COVID-19 in the workplace, your province or state health authority should provide you with advice on what you need to do in your workplace. Follow their instructions.


Can face masks that are past their shelf life date be used?


Generally it is recommend not using face masks that are past their shelf life. However, if there is low supply and high demand, masks can be used by if they are past their shelf life if:


  • the ear loops, ties or bands are intact

  • there are no signs of visible damage, and

  • they can be fit tested


Resources and support


For more information on how we can help, select CONTACT US below or call toll free on 866 337 4734 to arrange an appointment with one of our experienced team members today.


Working from Home

There are current public health directions restricting business operations in some jurisdictions both in Canada and the United States. If you want to know what restrictions on business operations apply to your workplace, go to your relevant provincial or state government website. Businesses must only operate to the extent permissible in each province or state. The information provided below outlines measures which cover all aspects of services offered by the industry – depending on what is permissible in your jurisdiction, some sections may not be currently relevant to your business. 

 

If you want to know how OHS legislation apply to you or need help with what to do at your workplace, contact us on 1 866 337 4734 or through our online contact form.

You should check any relevant advice from your province or state regarding working from home in response to COVID-19. Whether working from home is reasonably practicable will depend on the specifics of the workplace, the facilities available for workers to work remotely and the ability for workers to do their work safely from home.


In deciding whether working from home is appropriate for your workers, in consultation with workers and their representatives, you should consider:


  • the individual worker's role

  • whether the worker is in a vulnerable person category for contracting the virus (see our information on Vulnerable Workers)

  • suitability of work activities

  • workflows and expectations

  • workstation set up

  • surrounding environment such as ventilation, lighting and noise

  • home environment, such as partners, children, vulnerable persons and pets

  • communication requirement such as frequency and type

  • mental health and wellbeing of the worker

  • safe working procedures and training requirements, and

  • potential risk of infection on journeys to and from the workplace


Under OHS legislation, each employer has a duty of care for the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace. This duty extends to identifying and managing the risks of exposure to the COVID-19 virus and putting appropriate controls in place in every workplace where the employer engages workers to carry out work or directs or influences workers in carrying out work. If work can be completed at home, and the risks that arise from working remotely can be effectively managed, encouraging or directing workers to work from home may be the best way to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19.


Any existing workplace policies on working from home would apply to arrangements implemented as part of the COVID-19 response. You may need to vary your policies to reflect the broader requirements of the COVID-19 situation such as the ability to work from home while also caring for children. As with all work health and safety matters, you must consult with your workers and any elected Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) on working from home arrangements.


Whether working at the office or at home, a worker has the right to stop or refuse unsafe work when there is a reasonable concern of exposure to a serious risk to health and safety from an immediate or imminent hazard. In some circumstances, this could include exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Any concerns about health or safety should first be raised with you or the HSR. A worker may also contact a union for advice. If a worker decides to stop work as it is unsafe, they must notify you as soon as possible and be available to carry out alternative work arrangements.


What must I do when workers are working from home?


OHS legislation still applies if workers work somewhere other than their usual workplace, for example, from home. You have duties to ensure the health and safety of your workers, even if they are working from home. What you can do to minimise risks at a worker's home may be different to what you can do at the usual workplace. However, in consultation with workers and their representatives, you should:


  • provide guidance on what is a safe home office environment, including what a good workstation setup looks like, why workers should not be sedentary all day and how to avoid this

  • allow workers to borrow any necessary work station equipment from the office to take to the home as agreed

  • require workers to familiarize themselves and comply with good ergonomic practices, consistent with any workplace policies and procedures, for example requiring workers to complete a workstation self-assessment checklist and provide their responses to you

  • maintain regular communication with workers

  • provide access to information and support for mental health and wellbeing services. You may have an existing employee assistance program (EAP) you can promote, and

  • appoint a contact person in the business who workers can talk to about any concerns related to working from home


You must also think about, and consult your workers, on how your existing policies and procedures apply when working from home, including:


  • notification of incidents, injuries, hazards and changes in circumstances

  • consultation and review of work health and safety processes, and

  • attendance, timesheets, leave and other entitlements and arrangements


If necessary, employers may consult workers for an inspection of the worker’s home work environment to ensure it meets health and safety requirements. This can be achieved through virtual means such as photos or video to avoid the need for a physical inspection.


In many cases, given the types of risks associated with the activities to be undertaken, an inspection will not be required. Depending on the complexity of the potential risks involved, you may need to engage the services of a health and safety professional to assess the risks to a worker working from home.


What are the OHS risks of working from home?


Working from home may change, increase or create work health or safety risks. You must consult with workers before you implement control measures to address these risks. It is also important to review and monitor whatever arrangements are put in place to ensure that these arrangements do not create any additional risks.


Some key considerations that may affect the OHS risks of workers working from home or remotely include:


  • pre-existing injuries the worker may have

  • communication frequency and type between the employer and worker

  • management of the work program, workload, activities and working hours

  • surrounding work environment

  • workstation set up, such as desk, chair, monitors, keyboard, mouse and computer

  • work practices and physical activity

  • mental health and wellbeing of the worker, and

  • other responsibilities the worker may have such as facilitating online learning for children or a caring role


You must do what you reasonably can to manage the risks to a worker who works from home. However, workers also have health and safety obligations to minimise risks when working from home including:


  • following procedures about how work is performed

  • using equipment provided by the workplace as per the instructions given and is not damaged or misused

  • maintaining a safe work environment, such as designated work area, moving furniture to ensure comfortable access, providing adequate lighting and ventilation, repairing any uneven surfaces or removing trip hazards

  • managing their own in-house safety, such as maintaining electrical equipment and installing and maintaining smoke alarms

  • notifying the employer about risks or potential risks and hazards, and

  • reporting any changes that may affect their health and safety when working from home


Mental health risks and working from home


The COVID-19 pandemic is a stressful and uncertain time for everyone. Working from home, particularly for the first time, can create additional risks to mental health. The OHS duties apply to both physical health and mental health. This means that employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure the mental health of their workers and protect their workers from psychological risks.


Working from home can have psychological risks that are different to the risks in an office or your regular workplace. A psychosocial hazard is anything in the design or management of work that causes stress. Some psychosocial hazards that may impact a worker’s mental health while working from home include:


  • being isolated from managers, colleagues and support networks

  • less support, for example workers may feel they don’t have the normal support they receive from their supervisor or manager

  • changes to work demand, for example the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and a move to working at home may create higher workloads for some workers and reduced workloads for others

  • low job control

  • not having clear boundaries between home-life and work-life

  • fatigue

  • poor environmental conditions, for example an ergonomically unsound work station or high noise levels, and

  • poor organisational change management, for example workers may feel they haven’t been consulted about the changes to their work


Working from home may also impact a worker’s mental health in other ways, such as from changed family demands. For example, home schooling school-aged children who are learning from home, relationship strain or family and domestic violence.


Looking after the mental health of workers at home


You must eliminate or minimize the risk to psychological health and safety arising from work as far as is reasonably practicable, including when your workers are working from home. You must consult with workers and HSRs on psychosocial hazards they may face and how to manage them. Workers often know what the issues are and have ideas about how to manage them. You must also review how you’re managing the risks to check your policies and processes are effective.


Good communication with your workers is especially important when they are working from home. It is important that you have regular and clear communication with your workers to set realistic and clear instructions on workloads, roles and tasks, to monitor work levels and to check that work can be successfully completed from home without creating any additional safety risks. Adjust any work tasks and ways of working as appropriate.


Steps you must take to manage risks to your workers’ mental health where reasonably practicable include:


  • providing information about mental health and other support services available to your workers (you may have an existing employee assistance programs you can refer workers to)

  • maintaining regular communication with your workers and encouraging workers to stay in contact with each other

  • staying informed with information from official sources and sharing relevant information with your workers and HSRs as it becomes available

  • offering your workers flexibility, such as with their work hours, where possible

  • making sure workers are effectively disengaging from their work and logging off at the end of the day

  • responding appropriately to signs a worker may be struggling, e.g. changed behaviour

  • informing workers about their entitlements if they become unfit for work or have caring responsibilities

  • eliminating or minimising physical risks, and

  • providing workers with a point of contact to discuss their concerns and to find workplace information in a central place including HSRs


Who is responsible for ensuring that my workers have a safe workstation set up to work from home?


Under current OHS legislation, you have a duty of care for the health and safety of your workers and others at the workplace. This includes where your worker is working from home. You must consult with workers and take all reasonable steps to ensure their workstations are correctly setup to reduce potential musculoskeletal injuries.


Workers also have a duty to take care for their own health and safety, which includes while working from home, and must follow any reasonable policies or directions their employer gives them. You and your workers share responsibility for ensuring a safe workstation set up. To ensure your workers’ workstation set up is safe, you should:


  • provide guidance on what is a safe home office environment, including setting up an ergonomic workstation, why workers should not be sedentary all day, and how to avoid this

  • require workers to familiarize themselves and comply with good ergonomic practices, for example by requiring workers to complete a workstation self-assessment checklist and provide their responses to you

  • provide a health and safety checklist for working from home for workers to use, for example checking for trip hazards in the work space

  • consider organizing a workstation assessment by a competent person where practicable, allow workers to borrow equipment, such as chairs, monitors, keyboards and mouses, from the office or reimburse them reasonable costs for purchasing any required equipment, and

  • have ongoing discussion with your workers regarding their workstation set up


Workers must follow reasonable policies or directions set by you. This may include completing workstation checklists and following any other reasonable safety policies and directions you give them. As with any other work environment, workers must inform you of any work-related incidents or injuries that occur while working at home and are encouraged to report health and safety concerns to you and their HSR.


What do I need to do about home workstation setups?


You must eliminate or minimise risks to the health and safety of your workers, so far as is reasonably practicable. While you have less control over a worker’s home, you must still consult with workers and HSRs and take steps to reduce work health and safety risks of workstations as much as possible (with available and suitable solutions). To minimise the risk of a worker sustaining a musculoskeletal injury while working from home, you could:


  • organize a virtual workstation assessment

  • have ongoing discussion with your workers about their workstation setup

  • provide a health and safety checklist when working from home for your workers to use

  • provide a workstation self-assessment checklist and health and safety checklist for your workers follow

  • provide your workers with information on setting up an ergonomic workstation, and

  • allow workers to borrow equipment, such as chairs, monitors, keyboards and mouses, from the office or reimburse them reasonable costs for purchasing any required equipment

  • monitor to ensure the workstation set up is not creating additional risks and the need for any additional equipment, and

  • in undertaking safety checks you should ensure workers have access to first aid based on an assessment of their duties and home work environment


Am I required to provide my workers with equipment to enable them to work safely from home?


You must identify and manage any risks to workers working from home. Undertaking a risk assessment will assist you to determine what is reasonably required to keep workers safe. It may not be reasonably practicable to conduct a physical inspection of your workers’ home, but there are other ways you can assess the risks, including by requiring workers to complete a workstation and health and safety checklist that you may discuss with them.


You may determine that it is practicable to allow workers to borrow equipment from the office or reimburse reasonable costs. You and your workers must discuss what equipment may be required for the worker to safely carry out their work as early as possible during the workstation set up and continue to monitor their ongoing equipment needs throughout the time they are working from home. If you are not satisfied that a safe workstation can be created, it may not be reasonably practicable for the worker to work from home. In these circumstances, alternative arrangements may need to be made. This could include setting up a safe office space for the worker in the office and flexible work hours to minimize contact between workers.


What are my obligations to my workers to ensure that they have suitable breaks and work reasonable hours while working from home?


You must ensure workers continue to access their workplace entitlements, including breaks, standard hours and any agreed to flexible work arrangements. You should consider whether any existing workplace policies and procedures need to be revisited in light of the COVID pandemic and increased working from home arrangements.


I have workers working from home who are also caring for, and educating, their school aged children who are unable to attend school. What are my obligations towards these workers?


Good communication between you and your workers is especially important when workers are working from home. You should ensure your workers are aware of any working from home and carer policies that apply to your workplace. Workers may also wish to discuss their entitlements to carers leave and other relevant forms of leave. Workers may wish to share tips on balancing work and caring responsibilities with others. Tool box discussions and team meetings can be a great place to share this information in a friendly environment. This might include tips on how workers have managed to balance their caring arrangements with their partner, where available.


How can I support my workers who are finding working from home stressful and it is negatively impacting their mental health?


You must eliminate or minimize the risk to psychological health and safety arising from work as far as is reasonably practicable, including when your workers are working from home. Good communication with your workers is especially important when they are working from home. You must consult with workers and HSRs on psychosocial hazards they may face and how to manage them. Workers often know what the issues are and have ideas about how to manage them. You must also review how you’re managing the risks to check your policies and processes are effective.


There are a range of resources available to workers to support workers’ mental health. These include:


Canada


Government of Canada - Mental health tips for working from home

Mental Health Commission of Canada - Mental health and wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic

Canadian Mental Health Association - 6 tips to respond to employee anxiety about COVID-19

Canadian Mental Health Association - COVID-19 and mental health

Canadian Psychological Association - Working from Home During COVID, With and Without Children

MyWorkplaceHealth - COVID-19: How to cope with social distancing and working from home


United States


American Psychiatric Association Foundation - Working Remotely During COVID-19

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Coping with Stress - COVID-19

American Psychiatric Association (APA) - APA Coronavirus Resources

American Medical Association (AMA) - Managing mental health during COVID-19

Mayo Clinic - COVID-19 and your mental health


There are also a number of practical steps that can help. These include:


  • ensuring workers have the contact details for the relevant Employee Assistance Program

  • maintaining regular communication

  • supporting flexible work arrangements, where available, and

  • ensuring workers effectively disengage from work and log off at the end of the day.


One of my workers has contracted COVID-19 while working from home. What should I do?


If you have a worker who has contracted COVID-19 you will need to follow the health advice provided by your public health authority. You should discuss leave arrangements with your worker and determine if the worker has had contact with any other workers while they were infectious. Workers who have been isolated after having tested positive for COVID-19 can return to work when they have fully recovered and have met the criteria for clearance from isolation. The criteria may vary depending on circumstances of the workplace, the province or state as they may manage clearance from isolation differently. Clearance may be by the public health authority or the persons treating clinician.


It is possible that a worker with COVID-19 could potentially work from home, if for example, they have no or minor symptoms. This would be subject to the advice from the relevant treating clinician and discussions with the worker. For example, a doctor may recommend reasonable adjustments, including reduced working hours or changes to a worker’s workload. Contact your province or state helpline for further advice.


When should workers return to the workplace?


Before workers return to their usual workplace you must ensure your proposed arrangements are consistent with the latest advice from public health authorities. You will also need to undertake a risk assessment and consult with workers and HSRs before workers return to the usual workplace. This risk assessment will need to include consideration of current national, provincial and state government on physical distancing and whether your workplace can support all your workers returning at the same time while meeting those requirements.


You may consider options for staging a return to the workplace, to ensure that physical distancing requirements are met in accordance with Government advice. As part of your risk assessment you must consider vulnerable workers and ensure that they are not put at risk by a direction to return to the workplace. Pending your risk assessment, it may be that vulnerable workers should remain in a working from home arrangement for a longer duration that those workers who are not vulnerable. You are also required under the OHS legislation to consult with your workers and any HSRs about any direction to return workers to the workplace. Finally, you should keep up to date with the latest health and national, provincial and state government advice on COVID-19.


Can I direct my workers back to the usual workplace?


Whether or not you can reasonably direct workers back to the workplace will depend on a number of factors, including public health requirements and the individual circumstances of the worker working from home. Workers must follow any reasonable policies or directions you put in place in response to COVID-19. You must consult with workers and HSRs prior to decisions being made to return to the workplace. You must also ensure return to work arrangements adhere to relevant national, provincial and state government advice (eg. physical distancing requirements).


Where circumstances change, for example it is no longer safe for a worker to continue working from home due to a change in the worker’s home situation or the ability of the worker to continue working from home effectively, the worker may after appropriate consultation be directed to return to the workplace.

Before requiring workers to recommence work at their usual workplace you must, in consultation with workers and HSRs, have a plan to ensure the safe return to work for all workers.


Resources and support


For more information on how we can help, select CONTACT US below or call toll free on 866 337 4734 to arrange an appointment with one of our experienced team members today.


Cleaning

There are current public health directions restricting business operations in some jurisdictions both in Canada and the United States. If you want to know what restrictions on business operations apply to your workplace, go to your relevant provincial or state government website. Businesses must only operate to the extent permissible in each province or state. The information provided below outlines measures which cover all aspects of services offered by the industry – depending on what is permissible in your jurisdiction, some sections may not be currently relevant to your business. 

 

If you want to know how OHS legislation apply to you or need help with what to do at your workplace, contact us on 1 866 337 4734 or through our online contact form.

COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. A person can acquire the virus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.


A key way you can protect workers and others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is by implementing appropriate cleaning and disinfecting measures for your workplace. A combination of cleaning and disinfection will be most effective in removing the COVID-19 virus. Workplaces must be cleaned at least daily. Cleaning with detergent and water is usually sufficient.  Once clean, surfaces can be disinfected. When and how often your workplace should be disinfected will depend on the likelihood of contaminated material being present. You should prioritise cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that many people touch.

Alternatively, you may be able to do a 2-in-1 clean and disinfection by using a combined detergent and disinfectant.


How to clean and disinfect


Cleaning means to physically remove germs (bacteria and viruses), dirt and grime from surfaces using a detergent and water solution. A detergent is a surfactant that is designed to break up oil and grease with the use of water. Anything labelled as a detergent will work. Disinfecting means using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. It’s important to clean before disinfecting because dirt and grime can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs. The following disinfectants are suitable for use on hard surfaces (that is, surfaces where any spilt liquid pools, and does not soak in): alcohol in a concentration of at least 70%, chlorine bleach in a concentration of 1000 parts per million, oxygen bleach, or wipes and sprays that contain quaternary ammonium compounds. These chemicals will be labelled as ‘disinfectant’ on the packaging and must be diluted or used following the instructions on the packaging to be effective.


As long as you use a disinfectant of the types described above, in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions, they will be effective. Cleaning should start with the cleanest surface first, progressively moving towards the dirtiest surface. When surfaces are cleaned, they should be left as dry as possible to reduce the risk of slips and falls, as well as spreading of viruses and bacteria through droplets.


Before a surface is disinfected, it is important it is cleaned first because dirt and grime can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs. Disinfectant may not kill the virus if the surface has not been cleaned with a detergent first. The packaging or manufacturer’s instructions will outline the correct way to use disinfectant. Disinfectants require time to be effective at killing viruses. If no time is specified, the disinfectant should be left for ten minutes before removing.


You should provide your workers with suitable cleaning and disinfecting products and personal protective equipment, and ensure they are trained on how to use them. After cleaning, any single-use personal protective equipment (PPE), disposable cloths and covers should be placed in a plastic bag and disposed of in general waste. Any reusable cleaning equipment, including mop heads and reusable cloths, should be laundered and completely dry before re-use.


What is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?


Cleaning means to physically remove germs (bacteria and viruses), dirt and grime from surfaces using a detergent and water solution. A detergent is a surfactant that is designed to break up oil and grease with the use of water. Disinfecting means using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. It’s important to clean before disinfecting because dirt and grime can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs. The following disinfectants are suitable for use on hard surfaces (that is, surfaces where any spilt liquid pools, and does not soak in): alcohol in a concentration of at least 70%, chlorine bleach in a concentration of 1000 parts per million, oxygen bleach, or wipes and sprays that contain quaternary ammonium compounds. These chemicals will be labelled as ‘disinfectant’ on the packaging and must be diluted or used following the instructions on the packaging to be effective.


Which areas should be cleaned and disinfected, and how often?


Any surfaces that are frequently touched should be prioritised for cleaning, such as tabletops, counters, door handles, light switches, elevator buttons, desks, toilets, taps, TV remotes, kitchen surfaces and cupboard handles, phones, POS machines and workplace amenities. . Any surfaces that are visibly dirty, or have a spill, should be cleaned as soon as they are identified, regardless of when they were last cleaned.


You should regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that many people touch. At a minimum, frequently touched surfaces workplaces should be cleaned and disinfected at least once daily. If your workplace has many customers or others entering each day, more frequent cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces is recommended. If your workplace is only attended by the same small work crew each day and involves little interaction with other people, routine disinfection in addition to daily cleaning may not be needed.


Which areas should I prioritise for cleaning?


Any surfaces that are frequently touched should be prioritised for cleaning and disinfection. These include tabletops, counters, door handles, light switches, elevator buttons, desks, toilets, taps, TV remotes, kitchen surfaces and cupboard handles, phones, POS machines and workplace amenities.. You should also prioritise cleaning and disinfecting surfaces which are visibly soiled (dirty) and which are used by multiple people (e.g. carts, checkouts, POS machines).


How often should I do a routine clean?


Regular cleaning is key to minimising the build-up of dust and dirt and allows for effective disinfecting when required. Cleaning of frequently touched surfaces must be undertaken at least once per day. Cleaning should be more frequent if surfaces become visibly dirty, there is a spill, or if they are touched by a different people (for example, if your workplace has a high volume of workers, customers or visitors that are likely to touch surfaces such as tabletops, counters, door handles, light switches, elevator buttons, desks, toilets, taps, TV remotes, kitchen surfaces and cupboard handles, phones, POS machines and workplace amenities). If your workplace operates in shifts, it should be cleaned between shifts. If equipment is shared between workers, it may also be cleaned between uses, where practicable.


Cleaning and disinfecting should also be done after a person with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID 19 has recently been at the workplace, in line with advice from your provincial or state health authority.


How often should I do a routine disinfection?


You should regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that many people touch. You should consider disinfecting frequently touched surfaces at least once daily. All surfaces should be cleaned with detergent prior to disinfection. Alternatively, you may be able to do a 2-in-1 clean and disinfection by using a combined detergent and disinfectant.


What’s the difference between frequently touched and infrequently touched surfaces?


A frequently touched surface is a surface that is touched multiple times each day, regardless of whether it is touched by the same person or different people. Door handles and taps are examples of frequently touched surfaces. An infrequently touched surface is any surface that is not touched more than once each day. If you are unsure, you should treat your surface as if it is frequently touched.


Does every surface need to be cleaned and disinfected?


You don’t need to clean and disinfect every surface. The virus is transmitted by breathing in droplets produced by an infected person coughing or sneezing, or contact with contaminated surfaces, so you only need to clean surfaces that are touched or otherwise contaminated. This is true whether the touching is deliberate (e.g. a door knob) or incidental (e.g. brushing a door when reaching for the door knob). There are some surfaces that are never touched (e.g. ceilings and cracks and crevices in machinery) and these do not need to be cleaned and disinfected.


Do I need to clean and disinfect areas or equipment daily if no one has entered the area or used the equipment recently?


No. If a surface has not had human contact within the last few days, it is unlikely to be a potential source of infection. Accordingly, you may wish to consider how frequently a particular surface is touched or otherwise comes into human contact when deciding how often an area or equipment needs to be cleaned and disinfected.


What about workers’ personal items?


You should instruct your workers to clean and disinfect personal items used in the workplace such as glasses and phones regularly using disinfectant wipes or sprays.


What should my workers wear to clean?


In most circumstances, it will not be necessary for workers to wear protective clothing to clean your workplace. However, workers should use personal protective equipment (PPE) that is necessary for the products they are using for cleaning. As a starting point:


  • gloves are the minimum requirements

  • gowns and disposable suits/aprons are not required. Clothes that can be washed afterwards are suitable

  • you need to provide any PPE and train your workers on how to use it safely


If you have a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case in the workplace, surgical masks should be used to cleaning any impacted areas. See also our information on PPE and Masks.


What if there is a case of COVID-19 in my workplace?


If you have a case of COVID-19 in the workplace, your provincial or state health authority should provide you with advice on what you need to do in your workplace. Follow their instructions. Your workplace will need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before people can return to the workplace. Its also important to know that:


  • using an accredited cleaner is not required

  • fogging is not required and is not recommended by either the Canadian or US health departments for routine cleaning against COVID-19

  • swabbing surfaces following disinfection is not required


What are the best products for cleaning and disinfecting?


When cleaning it is best to use detergent and warm water. This will break down grease and grime so that the surface can be wiped clean. Anything labelled as a detergent will work. Disinfectants should only be used once the surface is fully cleaned.


Disinfectants that are suitable for use on hard surfaces (that is, surfaces where any spilt liquid pools, and does not soak in) include: alcohol in a concentration of at least 70%, chlorine bleach in a concentration of 1000 parts per million, oxygen bleach, or wipes and sprays that contain quaternary ammonium compounds. These chemicals will be labelled as ‘disinfectant’ on the packaging and must be diluted or used following the instructions on the packaging to be effective.


If using a store-bought disinfectant, choose one that has antiviral activity, meaning it can kill viruses. This should be written on its label. Alternately, diluted bleach can be used. If using freshly made bleach solution, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for appropriate dilution and use. It will only be effective when diluted to the appropriate concentration. Note that prediluted bleach solutions lose effectiveness over time and on exposure to sunlight.


Is a sanitiser a disinfectant?


A sanitiser is a chemical that is designed to kill some bacteria and some viruses that can cause disease in humans or animals. These chemicals are not as strong as disinfectants, which makes them safe to use on skin. If you’re disinfecting a hard surface or inanimate object, a disinfectant is the best option.


If everything is sold out, can I make my own disinfectant?


Store-bought disinfectants meet government standards, so you know they will work. However, if you don’t have store bought disinfectant available, you can prepare a disinfecting solution using bleach and water. Do not use products such as vinegar, baking soda, (bicarbonate of soda), essential oil, mouthwash or saline solution – these will not kill COVID-19.


If preparing a disinfecting solution, make sure you handle chemicals carefully, as they can be dangerous. Always read and follow the instructions and safety directions on the label. If the solution is not prepared and used as described in the instructions, it is unlikely to be effective.


Can I use a product that claims to clean and disinfect at the same time?


Yes, some products can be used for both cleaning and disinfecting, which can save time and effort. If using these products, make sure that you read and follow the instructions on the label to ensure they work effectively.


Does heating or freezing kill the virus?


Extreme heat will destroy COVID-19 but is not recommended as a general disinfection method. Steam and boiling water can easily burn workers and should only be used by trained personnel with specialised equipment. Viruses are generally resistant to the cold and can survive longer if frozen than if left outside at room temperature.


Will an antibacterial product kill COVID-19?


Antibacterial products are designed to kill bacteria. However, COVID-19 is caused by a virus rather than by bacteria, so an antibacterial product may not be effective against COVID-19. Detergent and warm water are suitable for cleaning surfaces and should be used prior to using a disinfectant. For cleaning hands, regular soap and warm water is effective.


Should I be using hospital grade disinfectant for normal cleaning in the workplace?


Both the Canadian and US health departments only recommend the use of hospital grade disinfectant when cleaning in a hospital, beauty or allied health care setting where an infectious person has been present.


What is the difference between household grade disinfectant and hospital grade disinfectant?


Hospital grade disinfectants must meet government standards for use in health care, beauty and allied health settings. A household or commercial grade disinfectant must also meet government standards, but the testing is not as comprehensive as it is for hospital grade disinfectants and the standards to be met are lower. Household or commercial grade disinfectant are suitable for use in workplaces that are not health care, beauty or allied health settings.


Are there any cleaning methods I shouldn’t use?


The best cleaning method is to use warm water and detergent. You should avoid any cleaning methods that may disperse the virus or create droplets, such as using pressurised water, pressurised air (including canned air cleaners), dry cloth and dusters. Fumigation or wide-area spraying (known as ‘disinfectant fogging’) is not recommended for general use against COVID-19. Additionally, if not done correctly it can expose workers and others to hazardous chemicals.


I prefer to use environmentally friendly or natural products, do I have to use detergent to clean?


Yes. Using only water and a cloth, or other forms of cleaning agents, such as vinegar and baking soda (bicarbonate of soda), will not be as effective as using detergent.


What is disinfectant fogging, and do I need to do it?


Disinfectant fogging (sometimes cal