The province of Ontario has presented a multi-phase plan to reopen the economy. The province will follow a gradual approach to allow public health officials to monitor and assess conditions before moving onto the next phase. A practical guide to follow from the City of Toronto has been provided for employers, workplaces and businesses on workplace recommendations, protocols and procedures to protect employees and customers. The link can be accessed here.
Stage 1 will consist of reopening business that can immediately meet or modify operations to satisfy public health recommendations and occupational health and safety requirements.
- Stage 1 will focus on workplaces that are well equipped and positioned to follow public health advice in terms of ensuring safe workplaces and appropriate physical distancing measures.
- What businesses can open in Stage 1?
- Construction, retail, vehicle dealerships, media industries, health services, outdoor recreational amenities, professional sports without spectators and many more.
Ontario announced they will be taking a regional approach to Stage 2, reopening more workplaces and businesses based on additional risk assessments and public health information, determining which regions will be permitted to enter the stage when certain criteria are met.
- What businesses can open in Stage 2?
- Restaurants & bars, personal care services, shopping malls and centres, beaches, parks & camping, drive-in & drive-thru venues, libraries, community centers, along with weddings, funerals and other similar gatherings.
Stage 3 will consist of reopening most remaining workplaces and businesses, while carefully and gradually lifting restrictions. Public health and workplace safety guidelines will remain in place, while large public gatherings will also continue to be restricted.
Fifteen Proactive and Protective Measures to Keep Everyone Safe
- Keeping two meters or six feet of distance from others
- Washing your hands often - using soap and hand sanitizers
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
- Cough into your elbow or a tissue
- Staying at home when you are sick or experiencing signs of illness
- Cleaning & disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces
- Wearing facemasks
- Avoiding all non-essential trips
- Screening staff and clients in regards to COVID-19 when possible, briefly questioning or implementing screening measures, prohibiting anyone with symptoms from entering the workplace
- Ensuring staff do not come to work when sick
- Maintaining flexibility, reducing operating hours, staggering of shifts and implementing flexible work policies when work can be done remotely, manage meetings electronically if possible
- Reduce overcrowding by establishing proper physical distancing measures and markings within workplaces for employees, workers and clients
- Managing entrances/exits effectively, controlling both the flow and capacity within workplaces while maintaining physical distancing
- Implementing signage and additional information to help advise individuals regarding important changes during this time, as it may additionally help the flow of information for workers, employees and clients
- Implementing proper cleaning and disinfection protocols for workplaces and/or implementing the use of air filters and cleaning services to reduce airborne contamination
It is important that employers and employees work together to develop effective plans to manage and ensure the wellbeing of everyone as businesses begin to reopen.
Occupational Health and Safety Act, RSO 1990, c. O. 1 ("OHSA")
In Ontario, employers have an obligation to ensure employees have a safe and healthy work environment. Employers are required to show that they acted reasonably to protect the safety of employees in hazardous circumstances, which may include exposure to COVID-19.
For additional information, we encourage employers and employees to visit the Ontario website and review the latest information as it relates to the reopening of Ontario. Clickable Link here
If you have more questions as it relates to occupational health and safety standards, or if you are an employer or employee who needs additional assistance regarding returning to work, please contact our firm to discuss your rights and options.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.