Coronavirus | Ontario

New Ontario workplace screening protocol

January 22, 2021

Ontario quietly changed its workplace screening protocols on January 7, 2021. RCC was only made aware of this change this week. Click here for the new screening protocols.

In addition to some changes to the questionnaire (e.g. more questions, now two different questionnaires based on age), there is a very significant change which now requires (1) record retention of  employee answers, and (2) that employers have the ability to share those records with inspectors who attend the place of business.

To facilitate this protocol, Ontario created a new digital screening site – click here for that. This can be done on a phone, prior to ‘clocking in’ to work. Based on the record keeping requirement, this needs to be complemented by having staff email the PDF generated to HR.

Another method that could be used, is to have a list of questions next to the location where staff ‘clock in’ to work. Staff could be directed to read through the questions prior to clocking in, and then sign an attestation stating they’ve answered “no” to all questions. This attestation sheet could be as simple as a list of all staff names as columns and all days in the month as rows, with the signature indicating that they replied “no” to all questions. This creates a record that could be shown to an inspector.

Summary of Ontario’s inspection blitz

RCC also wanted to take a moment to highlight common infraction areas over the past week. While this is of particular importance to essential retails who remain open, many of these items still apply to non-essential retailers, and/or act as preparation for reopening.

28% of all infractions were related to poor alignment with the required screening requirements mentioned above. See above for our recommendations on how to align with the new record retention piece.

22% of all infractions were related to a failure to physical distance. Inspectors are viewing staff, to see that they are able to remain two metres appear from others during the performance of their duties. For those that cannot, inspectors are looking for additional controls to be in place.

A common example here is a cashier – a two metre distance cannot be maintained. A control to ensure health and safety of a cashier is to either (1) add plexiglass at checkout, or (2) have the cashier wear eye protection.

Where this gets more complex is for staff wandering the store / restocking shelves. Inspectors won’t hand out a ticket if a small number of patrons pass within two metres of someone stocking a shelf, however, if flow is ‘consistent’ they may. As a way to prevent any and all tickets, a method could be to have staff wear eye protection through out the store (so long as they are not in a backroom not accessible by the public, or at cash behind plexiglass).

16% of all infractions were related to no masks or face coverings for staff. While the majority of these tickets were to staff, some were directly to the employer. RCC has been informed that staff were issued a ticket in scenarios where they expressed either anti-masking sentiment to the inspector, or stated that they were not wearing a mask “because they didn’t want to”. If staff have a medical exemption, or other exemption that would give them an accommodation (e.g. a face shield instead of a mask) or prevents them from wearing any face covering whatsoever, the staff member needs to highlight that right away to the inspector when asked. This will prevent a ticket.

Tickets directly to employers should be treated very seriously. The Ministry of Labour has shared that tickets will only be issued to the employer in violation of the ‘no mask or face covering’ rule when multiple staff are wondering the store without a mask or in the real example whereby a store manager expressed an anti-masking sentiment directly to the inspector.

RCC reminds all members that masks are required in situations where the public can be present (e.g. sales floor in a store) and in scenarios where physical distancing cannot be maintained (e.g. working closely together in a location not accessible to the public).

12% of all infractions were related to a lack of cleaning or disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces. Tickets were issued when a manager was asked by an inspector about a specific high touch surface (e.g. the conveyor belt at checkout), and the manager replied by stating either (1) there is no enhanced cleaning protocol in place, or (2) that they are not sure of the protocol. Being able to clearly articulate the protocol would have avoided the issuance of a ticket in this example as would having a document that can be referenced with the enhanced cleaning protocol.

8% of all infractions were related to having no COVID-19 safety plan which is a requirement in Ontario. Click here for a link to a sample.

RCC encourages all members (essential and non-essential) to check through the areas listed above to ensure compliance should an inspection ensue.

For more information on either of these items, contact Sebastian Prins at sprins@retailcouncil.org.

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