On September 26, 2020, the Government of Ontario amended Ontario Regulation 364/20 to introduce new mandatory COVID-19 screening requirements in workplaces across Ontario. The amendment requires all businesses and organizations in Ontario to screen workers and essential visitors for COVID-19 before allowing them entry to the premises.
Failure to comply with the new requirements can result in charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The amended Regulation requires that: “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.” In conjunction with this language, the Ontario Ministry of Health released its COVID-19 Screening Tool for Workplaces (Businesses and Organizations).
COVID-19 Screening Tool for Workplaces
The Screening Tool identifies as “workers” employees, students, contractors or volunteers. “Essential visitors” includes delivery and maintenance personnel, as well as contract workers, but does not include patrons. The COVID-19 screening requirements do not apply to emergency service workers who must enter a workplace for emergency purposes.
The Screening Tool provides that workers should be screened at the beginning of the work day or their shift, and essential visitors be screened upon arrival at the premises.
The screening consists of three questions, which by now employers and employees in Ontario likely all know by heart:
- whether the individual is experiencing any new or worsening symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough, shortness of breath and nausea;
- whether the individual has travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days; and
- whether the individual has been in close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.
If the screened individual answers “yes” to any of these questions, they should be denied entry into the workplace.
The Screening Tool provides an exception for essential workers who travel outside of Canada for work: these individuals should not be denied entry on the basis of an affirmative answer to question (ii). As long as the other two questions are answered in the negative, the individual could be permitted to enter the workplace.
Takeaways for Employers
If they have not already done so, employers must take immediate steps to ensure they have implemented the COVID-19 screening procedures. Those who already have a screening process in place should review their protocol to ensure that it is consistent with the provisions set out in the Screening Tool.
The Screening Tool does not provide specific guidance as to how employers should implement it. Employers might have questions about how to manage multiple entrances to their business or how to store responses to the screening questions.
Minken Employment Lawyers is your source for expert advice and advocacy on today’s employment law issues. We encourage you to contact us or call us at 905-477-7011 to discuss your business’ unique needs, so that we can help you ensure that you are meeting your responsibilities to help protect your employees and curb the spread of COVID-19.
Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
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