What to know about managing COVID-19 risks in your Ontario workplace

Safety first. From Windsor to Ottawa and from Toronto to Sudbury, COVID-19 is changing every Ontarian’s life. Your business may be preparing to welcome employees back to a fundamentally different office environment. If your construction firm is managing a new job site, you’re ensuring employees follow government recommendations for masks and social distancing. And if your restaurant or retail space is now open, you’re monitoring and adjusting how your staff interacts with customers.

Risk management has and will always be critical when it comes to ensuring the safety of your Ontario workplace. Certainly, during COVID-19, you’ve quickly adapted to new protocols, requirements and recommendations. You are working to keep yourself, your employees, customers and suppliers as safe as possible. Thankfully, to help manage COVID-19 risks in your workplace there are now some specific government guidelines.

What COVID-19 risks are the biggest concerns for workplaces?

Breaking outbreak news. Multiple COVID-19 cases were recently linked to a newly reopened nail salon in Kingston, Ontario. After that, a local event quickly became national news.

CBC News reported, “Masks are mandatory in the Kingston area for many indoor public locations. More than 3,000 people have gone to get tested. Widespread testing, quick contact tracing and following mask and hygiene recommendations will be key to stopping this outbreak.”1

This unfortunate situation highlights just how difficult it can be to adapt an existing business model to effectively manage COVID-19 risks.

Certainly, the COVID-19 risks that your business in Ontario faces are unprecedented. Above all, as your business pivots during COVID-19, the slightest misstep could endanger lives and potentially cause lasting damage to your company’s reputation.  

This is why we’ve brought together some key information and useful COVID-19 risk management resources. As you manage COVID-19 risk in your Ontario workplace, the ALIGNED team is here to help you navigate the “new normal” for your operations.

COVID-19 workplace risks and your responsibilities as an Ontario business

The Ontario Government is developing guidelines, tools and risk management best practices to help businesses adapt and protect their employees during COVID-19. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, above all, it is the duty of Ontario employers to ensure that workers and workplaces are kept safe. More specifically, “under Ontario’s labour laws, employers must take every reasonable precaution to protect the health and safety of workers. This includes protecting workers from hazards posed by infectious diseases.”2

As an Ontario employer, assessing your workplace is the first step in identifying and managing COVID-19 risk. Where possible, your employees may be working from home during the pandemic. If your employees are in the workplace, the potential of exposure to COVID-19 while at work is something that you need to remain vigilant about.

In the event that you are concerned about COVID-19 exposure, you need to act. Ontario employers are required to:

  • “Take every reasonable precaution in the circumstance to protect the health and safety of workers.”
  • “Do a risk assessment to determine what parts of the jobsite and what other workers the affected worker would have had contact with.”3

However, after the risk assessment, you may be required to:

  • “Send co-workers who were exposed to the worker home for two weeks. Ask them to self-isolate and self-monitor and report any COVID-like illness to their employer.
  • Shut down the job site while the affected workplace area and equipment are disinfected”4

10 tips to keep your Ontario workplace safe during COVID-19

Risk management always matters. Identifying and mitigating potential risk exposures in the workplace has never been more important than it is right now. Here are some specific COVID-19 risk management tips provided by the Ontario Government:

  1. Workers should work from home, if possible.
  2. Ensure all high-touch tools and surfaces are cleaned regularly. For detailed information, refer to the Public Health Ontario guide to environmental cleaning.
  3. Create greater distance between workers, keeping a distance of at least 2 metres (approximately 2 arms lengths) from others, as much as possible.
  4. Reduce the number of passengers on elevators and avoid crowding in stairwells and other tight spaces.
  5. Give workers more opportunities to keep their hands clean, for example by providing soap and water or hand sanitizer if soap is not available.
  6. Ensure workers are using any required personal protective equipment appropriately.
  7. Schedule breaks at different times to avoid large groups.
  8. Remind workers returning from abroad, including the United States, they must self-isolate for 14 days and monitor themselves for symptoms, even if mild.
  9. Remind workers to stay home if they are sick.
  10. Hold meetings in outdoor spaces.5

A COVID-19 workplace safety plan for Ontario businesses

To help you implement COVID-19 risk management best practices in your workplace, the Ontario Government has also released a workplace safety plan. Within the plan, you’ll find a series of safety questions to help you evaluate, manage and mitigate risks in your workplace. You also need to:

You can download a Word template of the Ontario COVID-19 workplace safety plan here.

To keep current on the latest COVID-19 news releases from the Ontario Government you can also sign-up to receive news via e-mail.

ALIGNED with you | We’re your Ontario business insurance advocate during COVID-19 and beyond…

No matter what the future brings, we are here to support you. We understand that you are working hard to adapt your Ontario business to the new normal. Our Ontario business insurance experts are working closely with clients who are renovating their workplaces, shifting their business models and changing their operations. We are answering coverage questions and helping people connect with the best possible business insurance options.

As your business changes during COVID-19, your specific commercial insurance needs may also change. For example, if you temporarily or permanently close a location, unoccupied property insurance can fill an important gap when your business is vacant.

Meanwhile, it’s also important to know that any material change in risk must be reported to your insurer. Examples include changing your operations, service, products, property, automobiles, use of automobiles or other factors. This list of common situations when you need to contact your insurance broker is an important reference tool during COVID-19 and anytime.

If reporting requirements are not met, your coverage could be denied in the event of a claim. Your policy could be cancelled in some instances if you fail to report certain changes to your Ontario business.

The insurance industry is built upon the principle of utmost good faith.

This means that the sharing of complete, accurate and current information amongst all parties is essential. As your Ontario business insurance advocate, we are here to help you during COVID-19 and beyond.

In short, if you have any questions about COVID-19 and your coverage, we’ll get you the answers you need to move forward with confidence.

Sources: 1 CBC News: 27 confirmed COVID-19 cases now linked to Kingston, Ont., nail salon; 2,3,4,5 Ontario.ca: COVID-19 (coronavirus) and workplace health and safety; Public Health Ontario Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings ; Ontario.ca: Resources to prevent COVID-19 in the workplace ; Ontario.ca: Emergency status on COVID-19 ; 6 Ontario.ca: Develop your COVID-19 workplace safety plan

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