As COVID-19 cases increase within Ontario in what has been described as a "second wave", the Ontario Government has implemented regulatory changes that, effective September 26, 2020, mandate that all workplaces perform daily pre-screening of workers and essential visitors before they are permitted to enter the workplace.
New Regulatory Requirement for Areas in Stage 3
On September 26, 2020, the Ontario Government's amendment to O. Reg. 364/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 3, made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (the "Act") came into effect. The amendment provides:
2(3) The person responsible for a business or organization that is open shall operate the business or organization in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health on screening individuals.
Accordingly, the Ontario Ministry of Health's ("MOH") COVID-19 Screening Tool for Workplaces (Businesses and Organizations) (the "Tool"), which is a newly created recommendation applicable to all businesses and organizations that operate a workplace in Ontario, must be followed within all workplaces within the province.
The COVID-19 Screening Tool for Workplaces
The Tool contains the following requirements:
Who must be screened?
- Workers, meaning staff and also including students, contractors or volunteers that conduct business or related activities within the workplace, where applicable and appropriate.
- Essential visitors, which include individuals providing a service in the establishment who are not employees or patrons of the establishment, such as delivery, maintenance, contract workers.
Who is excluded from screening?
The Tool does not require the pre-screening of patrons entering a workplace (for example, the Tool does not require the screening of customers entering a grocery store, restaurant or bar), nor does the Tool require pre-screening of emergency services or other first responders entering a workplace for emergency purposes.
What are the pre-screening questions?
The Tool includes the following required pre-screening questions:
- Do you have any of the following new or worsening symptoms or
signs? Symptoms should not be chronic or related to other known
causes or conditions.
- Fever or chills
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Sore throat, trouble swallowing
- Runny nose/stuffy nose or nasal congestion
- Decrease or loss of smell or taste
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain
- Not feeling well, extreme tiredness, sore muscles
- Have you travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days?
- Have you had close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19?
If an individual answers "yes" to any of these questions, they are considered not to have passed the pre-screening under the Tool.
How must a workplace respond to an individual who passes the pre-screening?
Once an individual has passed the screening questions, they are allowed to enter the workplace.
How must a workplace respond to an individual who does not pass the pre-screening?
An individual who does not pass the pre-screening is not permitted access to the workplace (including any outdoor, or partially outdoor, workplaces) and should immediately self-isolate and call their health care provider or Telehealth Ontario to determine if they need a COVID-19 test.
Do workplaces have any flexibility in implementing pre-screening?
This Tool provides that the recommendations thereunder may be adapted based on need and the specific setting. Accordingly, workplaces can implement the pre-screening in a manner that works best for their business, such as using a physical screening, app or online attestation process. That said, given the increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases in Ontario and large fines under the Act, employers would be well advised to ensure they implement a pre-screening process that is followed daily and consistently within their workplace.
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.