COVID-19 Update: Alberta Employer’s Re-launching and Re-opening Protocol: Posting of Related Plans No Longer Required

UPDATE (May 19, 2020): The Alberta Government has rescinded its order requiring all businesses to complete a COVID-19 plan and post within 7 days of re-opening. The completion of the COVID-19 template is voluntary and there are no required posting requirements. For more information please see Order 21-2020 and Order 22-2020.

On May 14, 2020, as part of its Relaunch Strategy, the Alberta Government ordered all businesses throughout the Province of Alberta who are re-opening or who continue to operate, to:

  • implement practices to minimize the risk of transmission of infection among persons working at or attending the business;
  • provide procedures for rapid response if a person develops symptoms of illness while working at or attending the business;
  • ensure that persons working at or attending the business maintain high levels of sanitation and personal hygiene;
  • comply, to the extent possible, with any applicable Health guidance found in Alberta Biz Connect.

The Alberta Government has provided a template to assist businesses with their relaunch plans. The template has five broad criteria for businesses to implement, which are described in detail below.

The Alberta Government’s “Alberta Biz Connect”, provides general workplace guidance for business owners re-opening or continuing operations and guidance for specific industries, such as retail, restaurants, health non-essential services, industrial work camps, golf course operators.

Members of our Labour & Employment Group can assist with preparing a re-opening or relaunching plan, which complies with Alberta’s existing public health orders and guidance documents.

Distancing Measures

In conducting safe operations and re-launching protocol, the Alberta Government recommends businesses consider the following measures to support distancing at the workplace:

  • Maintaining a 2 metre separation between individuals (e.g., workers, volunteers, patrons), including in washroom facilities. Distancing can be facilitated by the use of partitioned stalls, decommissioning toilets or urinals that are less than 2 metres apart, or staggering entry into washrooms so that fewer users are present at any one time.
  • Restricting the number of employees, volunteers, and patrons in a business at any one time.
  • Installing a physical barrier, such as a cubicle, partition, or window, to separate workers, volunteers, and patrons.
  • Increasing separation between desks and workstations.
  • Eliminating or re-structuring non-essential gatherings (e.g., meetings, training classes) of staff, patrons, and volunteers. For example, moving in-person meetings to virtual media platforms like teleconference or video conference.
  • Limiting the number of people in shared spaces (such as lunchrooms) or staggering break periods. Removing chairs from spaces and taping markers at 6-foot distances may be helpful in preventing crowds.
  • Limiting hours of operation or setting specific hours for at-risk patrons (e.g., several retailers have designated the first two hours of operation for the exclusive use of older patrons).
  • Implementing contact-free modes of patron interaction such as home-delivery of goods or curb-side pickup of items. Businesses that operate as such should also develop policies designed to mitigate risks in the workplace (e.g., performing hand hygiene, ensuring workers with any symptoms stay home, conducting surface cleaning and disinfection) and during delivery (e.g., reminding patrons to observe physical distancing while collecting goods and to wash their hands).
  • Placement of reference markers (e.g., markings on the floor) that set out two-meter distances.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

The Alberta Government encourages the “wipe-twice” method – wipe surfaces with a cleaning agent to clean off soil and wipe again with a disinfectant. The Alberta Government recommends the following measures for cleaning and disinfecting the workplace:

  • Providing employees, volunteers, and patrons with the means to sanitize hands at points of entry to the business and at other locations in a business where patrons and staff are known to handle goods.
  • Instructing employees and volunteers to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 second or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with greater than 60% alcohol content. The AHS hand hygiene education webpage has more information, posters, and videos about hand hygiene. Glove use is not a substitute for hand hygiene. Hands should be cleaned before and after using gloves.
  • Ensuring staff and volunteers make every effort to practice sound respiratory etiquette (e.g., coughing or sneezing into a bent elbow, promptly disposing of used tissues in the trash). The use of posters that remind staff, volunteers, and patrons to practice respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene is strongly encouraged in work areas where they are easily seen (e.g., entrances, washrooms, and staff rooms). Posters are available here.
  • Developing and implementing procedures for increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting of high traffic areas, common areas, public washrooms, and showering facilities.
  • Maintaining bathrooms and showers and any associated amenities in a clean and sanitary condition. The frequency of cleaning and disinfection will vary depending on usage.
  • Frequently cleaning and disinfecting high-touch/shared surfaces such as: doorknobs, light switches, toilet handles, faucets and taps, elevator buttons, railings, phones, computers, remote controls, keyboards, desktops, conference room equipment, cash registers, surface counters, customer service counters, menus, equipment handles, hand tools, machinery control panels, seat belt buckles, joysticks, steering wheels, and controls on powered mobile equipment.
  • Making available disposable towels and spray cleaners, or disposable wipes, to staff, volunteers, and (as necessary) patrons to regularly clean commonly used surfaces.
  • Removing all communal items that cannot be easily cleaned, such as newspapers, magazines, and stuffed toys.
  • Maintaining (where necessary) an adequate supply of soap, paper towel, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and other supplies.

Screening for Symptoms

The Alberta Government recommends employers implement active daily screening of staff, volunteers, and patrons for symptoms of fever, sore throat, cough, runny nose, or difficulty breathing. Employers must also emphasize that anyone who is sick with the cold-like symptoms mentioned above must not be in the workplace. Patrons with these symptoms must not be allowed in the workplace and should be advised to return home.

Employers are encouraged to examine sick-leave policies to ensure they align with public health guidance. Changes to the Employment Standards Code will allow full and part-time employees to take 14 days of job-protected leave if they are required to isolate or caring for a child or dependent adult who is required to isolate. We previously blogged about the changes here and here.

The Alberta Government recommends employers maintain an up-to-date contact list for all staff and volunteers, including names, addresses, and phone numbers, to enable quick contact with employees. In order to trace close contacts, employers should be able to indicate:

  • Roles and positions of persons working in the workplace;
  • Who was working onsite at any given time; and
  • Who an employee may have worked with on any given shift.

If a workplace has patrons within 2 metres of employees, then lists of patrons by time and date should also be kept.

As a reminder, Order 05-2020 legally requires individuals to be in isolation for a minimum of 10 days if they have tested positive for COVID-19. If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19 and it is determined that other people may have been exposed to that person, Alberta Health Services may be in contact with the business to provide the necessary public health guidance. Records may be sought up to two-weeks prior to the individual becoming ill.

Personal Protective Equipment

Businesses should conduct hazard assessments to identify existing and potential hazards related to COVID-19. Where elimination of these hazards is not possible or reasonable, they should be controlled. The Alberta Government has identified the following hierarchy of controls required:

  • First choice: engineering controls. These control the hazard at the source. Examples include placing barriers or partitions between staff, removing seats from lunch rooms and dining areas, re-arranging lockers, restricting general access to the business, and increasing ventilation.
  • Second choice: administrative controls. These controls change the way workers, volunteers, and patrons interact. Examples include policies for physical distancing, limiting hours of operations, and respiratory etiquette, and providing adequate facilities, supplies, and reminders for hand hygiene. Increased frequency of cleaning as outlined above is also required.
  • Third choice: personal protective equipment (“PPE”). PPE is necessary when physical distancing of 2 metres or physical barriers cannot be maintained by administrative and engineering controls (like barriers or partitions, floor markings, limiting the number of people in your business at one time). Examples of PPE include gloves, eye protection, gown, face protections, procedure/surgical masks, or N95 masks. Masks must be worn properly to be effective. Please see the Alberta Government guidance on wearing masks.

Responsibilities

All Alberta workplaces must comply with all public health orders and guidance, which includes developing and implementing policies and procedures to address COVID-19 and reduce the risk of transmission among their staff and customers.

Businesses must also designate a responsible person (e.g., a manager, health and safety representative) to ensure that staff and volunteers are following the applicable precautions, as well as a responsible person (e.g., a manger, doorperson, or security) to ensure that patrons are following the precautions. Businesses should also update contact information for staff members so they can be notified in the event of a known exposure and instructed accordingly.

Our team at McCarthy Tétrault continues to closely monitor the updates from governments across Canada as we move towards recovery – our up-to-date tracker of recovery efforts is at our COVID-19 hub here. Businesses are contemplating re-opening or relaunching should turn their minds to the myriad of considerations relevant to the reconstitution of the physical workplace. Our team has outlined many of those considerations in our article here.

This update is part of our continuing efforts to keep employers informed about COVID-19. Check our COVID-19 hub and our McCarthy Tétrault Employer Advisor blog for further updates. If you are an employer and need assistance, please reach out to any member of our National Labour & Employment Team.

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