As of January 4, 2021, employers in the city of Toronto that are permitted to be open under the Reopening Ontario Act are required to comply with a new letter of instruction issued by Toronto Public Health (“TPH”). Workplaces that are governed by sector-specific legislation, directives and guidelines are excluded from the letter of instruction (ex: licensed child care programs, health care providers, schools and school boards).
The letter of instruction is mandated pursuant to Section 2(2) of Schedule 1 to Ontario Regulation 82/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 1, which states that all workplaces are required to operate in compliance with the instructions of public health officials. The letter of instruction can be found here. It imposes the following obligations on employers:
If two (2) or more people test positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day interval in connection with a workplace premises, employers must:
- Immediately notify TPH at 416-338-7600;
- Notify the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development and/or other relevant government authorities;
- Provide contact information for a designated person who is readily available to communicate with TPH and implement any additional measures that are required;
- Ensure that accurate contact information for all workers is available to be produced to TPH within 24 hours of request; and
- Cooperate with TPH, which may include allowing entry to the workplace for inspection and to support enhanced infection control measures.
Employers are required to implement the following infection prevention measures:
- Ensure hand sanitizer and hand-washing facilities are provided in work and rest areas.
- Rigorously and frequently clean all high-touch areas and areas accessible to the public, including washrooms, check-out counters, concession stands, and surfaces such as doorknobs and elevator buttons.
- Conduct or have the property owner or landlord conduct a regular review of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
- Minimize instances of more than one individual in a vehicle for work-related driving. If unavoidable, ensure face coverings are worn in the vehicle and windows are open.
- Ensure workers physically distance by at least two (2) metres throughout the workplace and during eating and rest periods. When physical distancing is not possible, implement barriers, such as plexiglass.
- Install one-way walkways to reduce close physical interactions.
Employers are also required to ensure that all employees are aware of the income replacement and workplace-related benefits available if they have to isolate for having symptoms, being tested, or being in close contact of someone with COVID-19.
Additionally, as of January 7, 2021, TPH will now disclose workplace outbreak information where a “public health risk exists”, which is when there is:
- Evidence of sustained transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace;
- A significant proportion of staff have been involved in the outbreak;
- The outbreak continues for a significant duration; and
- The workplace is large enough that risk of worker privacy concerns are mitigated.
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.