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May 1, 2020

Ontario Releases Workplace Safety Guidelines For Reopening Economy

Authors Hendrik Nieuwland and Domenica Moran

On April 30, 2020, the Ontario Government released numerous safety guidelines to ensure employers have the resources they need to protect workers, customers, and the public from COVID-19, as the province prepares to gradually reopen the economy.  The released safety guidelines aim to help employers and workers understand how they can prevent the spread of COVID-19.  There are guidelines available for numerous sectors, such as construction, food processing, restaurant and food services, agriculture, manufacturing, and long-term care sectors. 

These guidelines build on the numerous guidelines released by Ontario’s health and safety associations (HSAs) to help set, communicate and enforce the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  The HSAs have released guidelines for additional sectors such as transportation, utilities, health care, police and fire services, retail, and auto.  All 61 of the guidelines released by the Ontario Government and the HSAs can be accessed here.

The guidelines released by the Ontario Government recommend employers should start planning now for how they will adapt so they can safely resume their operations in light of COVID-19 when it is safe to do so.  Among other recommendations, the guidelines provides ways employers can:

  • ensure physical distancing is maintained in the workplace, by minimizing contact with customers, conducting team meetings outdoors, staggering shift times and using ground markings and barriers to manage traffic flow;


  • ensure proper workplace sanitation, by providing workers with personal protective equipment, substituting dry dusting with vacuuming, frequent sanitization of commonly-touched surfaces, ensuring customer-facing staff are given hand sanitizer, and enforcing handwashing before and after breaks; and,


  • modify the workplace for added protection, like installing plexiglass barriers to ensure there are at least two (2) metres between staff and customers, increasing the air intake on building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to increase air flow, and using foot-wear sanitizing trays.


Additional workplace safety guidelines for more sectors are expected to be developed and released soon.    

The Ontario Government has also issued posters to help communicate useful safety tips in the workplace.  These posters are available for numerous sectors and can be downloaded here so employers can print and post them in their workplaces. 

There is no word yet on when the Ontario Government plans to begin reopening the economy. 

Our firm will continue to provide you with updates as the Ontario Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.

The foregoing is for informational purposes only and should in no way be relied upon as legal advice. For legal advice tailored to your circumstances and business, please contact any of SOM LLP’s lawyers by email or telephone.
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