As the rate of recovery from COVID-19 exceeds the rate of new infection, the Province of Ontario has begun to implement preliminary measures to gradually reopen businesses.
What’s Opening Up
As of May 16, the following businesses were permitted to reopen:
• golf courses
• private parks
As of May 19, the following businesses and activities will be permitted to resume operations as long as there is not an upsurge in new cases:
• retail stores with street entrances may reopen with appropriate physical distancing measures in place
• outdoor recreational activities and many non-contact individual sport competitions
• domestic work (e.g. housekeeping, cooking)
• veterinary and animal services
• essential workplace limits to construction will be lifted
• certain health and medical services (e.g. in-person counselling, in-person services by health professionals, scheduled surgeries)
• vehicle dealerships and retailers
• media operations
• professional services related to research and development
• emissions inspection facilities
• general maintenance and repair services.
For details and particulars relating to the above, please visit the following link: https://files.ontario.ca/mof-detailed-list-stage-1-openings-en-2020-05-14.pdf.
How to Stay Safe
The provincial plan outlines that working from home should continue as much as possible as Ontario begins to gradually reopen. All measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 should be implemented in compliance with requirements under the OHSA and associated regulations and public health directives issued by the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Following are some steps that can be taken to help ensure the safety of the workplace and those who enter upon returning to work:
• Implement/improve physical distancing measures, e.g. limit number of customers in a store, allow visits by appointment, minimize number of employees returning, minimize contact with other employees/customers, control entry points, minimize/eliminate handling of cash, assign staff to ensure customers maintain distance in congested areas, add floor markings/barriers to manage traffic flow and distancing, don’t accept re-usable bags/containers to be handled by staff, install barriers between cashiers and staff, stagger start times/shifts/breaks, hold meetings in an outdoor/large space
• Post and communicate COVID-19 policies outlining how workplaces will operate, including (but not limited to) sanitization of the workplace, how to report illnesses, how to ensure physical distancing, how work will be scheduled, screening measures
• Postpone projects/tasks that don’t need to be done now
• Establish rules for any work that requires workers within 2m of each other (e.g. full PPE)
• Provide access to soap & water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, provide clean washrooms and adequate disposal sites, sanitize commonly-touched surfaces/areas/equipment, post hygiene instructions in English or French and the majority workplace language
• Introduce more fresh air by increasing the ventilation system’s air intake or opening doors and windows; avoid central recirculation where possible
• Replace dry dusting with vacuuming or wet-wiping to better control the clean-up
As always, best hygiene practices for all workers and customers include frequent hand washing, containing sneezes/coughs into a sleeve, avoid touching the face, stay home if sick and avoid contact with the sick, avoid high-touch areas, and wear gloves where possible.
In contemplating the ability to phase out restrictions on businesses and gatherings, the Ontario government’s framework requires a consistent two-to-four week decrease in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases, sufficient acute and critical care hospital capacity to respond to potential surges, ongoing testing to detect new outbreaks quickly, and that approximately 90% of new case contacts are reached by local public health officials within one day. Premier Ford has emphasized his reliance upon the opinion of the Chief Medical Officer in determining whether to move forward with each phase of the plan to reopen the Province.
Employers should send home workers with symptoms related to cold, flu or COVID-19, and advise them to complete the online self-assessment or call either their primary care provider or Telehealth (1-866-797-0000).
If an employer is advised that a worker has tested positive for COVID-19 due to exposure at the workplace, or that a claim has been filed with the WSIB, the employer must notify:
• the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development in writing within 4 days
• the workplace joint health and safety committee or a health and safety representative
• a trade union (if applicable).
For more information, please visit the following government link: https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/5/ontario-announces-additional-workplaces-that-can-reopen.html.
For the provincial safety guidelines, please visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/resources-prevent-covid-19-workplace/.
Josh Valler and Jacklyn Tuckey