New Screening Requirements for Ontario Workplaces

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Due to the recent rise of COVID-19 cases, the Ontario government amended Ontario Regulation 364/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 3,[1] under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020,[2] effective September 26, 2020, province-wide (the “Amendment”). The Amendment requires, among other things, businesses or organizations in Stage 3 to comply with any advice, recommendations, and instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health (the “OCMOH”) on screening for COVID-19.

The OCMOH has issued a recommendation for businesses or organizations in Stage 3 to implement its COVID-19 screening tool in their workplaces (the “Screening Tool”).[3] As per the Amendment, businesses or organizations in Stage 3 must comply with this recommendation. We have set out a list of questions and answers below regarding the Screening Tool, to assist with its implementation.

  • Who must an organization or business screen? All workers[4] and essential visitors[5] entering a work environment. [6]
  • When must an organization or business screen a worker or essential visitor? A worker or essential visitor must be screened before they are permitted to enter the workplace. For example, the screening could be done before a worker or essential visitor shows up at the workplace for the first time each day or at the beginning of each shift, or it could be done when they arrive.
  • What screening questions must an organization or business ask a worker or essential visitor? At a minimum, three questions must be asked: (1) if they have any new or worsening symptoms or signs of those listed in the tool; (2) if they have travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days;[7] and (3) if they have had close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19. The screening questions can be modified (e.g. add questions) to meet the needs of the specific workplace setting.
  • What if a worker/essential visitor answers yes to a screening question? A worker/essential visitor who answers yes to any of the three questions, must be (i) advised that they should not enter the workplace (including any outdoor, or partially outdoor workplaces); and (ii) that they should immediately go home to self-isolate and contact their health care provider or Telehealth Ontario to determine if they need to be tested for COVID-19. A worker asked to go home, should be provided with information regarding alternative work arrangements (if any), leaves absence and entitlements (statutory and/or contractual), and available benefits (if any). A worker should also be followed up with to see how the worker is doing. Please refer to our blogs, School's Out - An Update on Managing the Impact of COVID-19 on Workplaces and COVID-19 Update: Moving Forward - Considerations for the Re-Opening of Physical Workplaces, for more on what to do if a worker tests positive for COVID-19.
  • What if a worker/essential visitor answers no to the screening questions? The worker/essential visitor should be permitted to enter the workplace but should be advised to immediately report any symptoms.
  • How could a business or organization implement the Screening Tool in their workplaces? There are a number of ways an organization or business could screen workers/essential visitors before or when they arrive at the workplace. For example, an organization use an online questionnaire, the Ontario government’s online self-assessment tool, or an in-person reporting process at the workplace entrance.
  • Is a business or organization required to keep records? No, however, it would be prudent to do so, in the event an organization or business is asked to demonstrate compliance. If records are kept, a business or organization should take steps to address any privacy-related concerns or obligations.

We note that the requirement set out in the Amendment is separate from and in addition to any workplace parties’ obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act[8] and its regulations, which may or may not require additional precautions depending on the circumstances.

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.

[1] O. Reg. 364/20: RULES FOR AREAS IN STAGE 3 under Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, S.O. 2020, c. 17, https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/200364

[2]Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, S.O. 2020, c. 17, https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/20r17

[3] Ontario Ministry of Health, COVID-19 Screening Tool for Workplaces (Businesses and Organizations), http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/publichealth/coronavirus/docs/workplace_screening_tool_guidance.pdf The Ministry of Health states that the tool may not be applicable to health care settings and some non-health care settings where screening is already in place.

[4] “Workers” include students, contractors or volunteers that conduct business or related activities where applicable/appropriate.

[5] “Essential visitors” include people who are providing a service in an establishment that are not employees or patrons (e.g. delivery, maintenance, contract workers).

[6] This does not include patrons entering a workplace (e.g., customers entering a grocery store, restaurant, bar or other food or drink establishment) or emergency services/other first responders entering a workplace for emergency purposes.

[7] Essential workers who travel outside for Canada for work purposes should not be excluded entry on this basis alone.

[8]Occupational Health and Safety Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1, https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90o01

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