As of October 2, 2020, Canada’s most-populated provinces have reported increased numbers of COVID-19 cases. As a result, the second wave of the pandemic is upon us.
In response to the increased numbers, provincial governments across the country are working on tightening rules and passing regulations to ensure the safety of their citizens.
One concrete example this past week is that the Ontario provincial government has passed regulations that make pre-entry COVID-19 screening of all workers and “essential visitors” mandatory for all businesses in Ontario. This amendment became effective as of September 26, 2020 and applies across to all workplaces, regardless of sector.
Ontario’s new workplace restrictions modified Ontario Regulation 364/30 “Rules For Areas In Stage 3” under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020. This amendment adds a new requirement that all persons responsible for businesses or organizations which are open, operate the business or organization in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer (“CMO”) of Health on screening individuals.
The Ontario CMO recommendations identify questions which need to be asked during the screening process and the parties that must be screened. The CMO requires that screening should include all employees, contractors, students and volunteers. It also requires screening of “essential visitors”, defined as people that are not employees but provide a service in the workplace. The recommendations identify contract workers, delivery people, and maintenance personnel as examples of “essential visitors”. The testing does not apply to customers or patrons of a business that serve the public directly (for example restaurants, retail, or other businesses which are operating and open to the public).
The required testing must occur before or when a worker enters the workplace at the beginning of the day or shift, or upon the arrival of the “essential visitor”. There are three questions that are to be answered by workers and essential visitors and any person who answers “yes” to any of the questions must be excluded from the workplace (even if working outdoors). The excluded person must be advised to contact Public Health for guidance on whether they need a COVID-19 test. Temperature checks are not required under these rules, and screening is not mandatory for workers who are working from home.
Ontario’s amended rules do not prescribe the exact way in which businesses must implement the pre-entry screening. Therefore businesses can implement the pre-screening in a way which is most effective for their business provided that it is taking place and that it can be demonstrated to a regulator (likely either Public Health or the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development) that it is compliant.
These new rules mean that businesses will need to not only adopt proper processes, but also have a system to record screening activity and results. Employers should also create a system to request confirmation that a person who was previously denied entry due to the screening process has cleared all needed medical checks to enter the workplace safely.