On January 4, 2020, the City of Toronto (“Toronto” or the “City”) announced new measures to combat COVID-19 in Toronto workplaces and to promote transparency regarding outbreaks. Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health issued a Letter of Instruction to implement additional public health requirements for workplaces in the City, pursuant to the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (the “Act”). Additionally, the City will begin publishing which workplaces have had outbreaks each week on its online COVID-19 monitoring dashboard, subject to certain criteria.
New Public Health Requirements for Workplaces
The new requirements, set out below, apply to most Toronto employers currently permitted to operate a business or organization under the Act. However, licensed childcare programs, schools, school boards, and health care providers, which are already subject to sector-specific guidelines and requirements, are exempt from the new requirements.
Immediately Notify Toronto Public Health of Outbreaks
Where an employer becomes aware of two or more people connected to a workplace having tested positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day interval, the employer must:
- immediately notify Toronto Public Health (“TPH”);
- notify the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development, and/or other relevant government authorities;
- provide contact information for a designated contact person at the workplace, and ensure that person is readily available to communicate with TPH and implement any additional measures required by TPH immediately;
- ensure that accurate and updated contact information for all of the workplace’s workers is available to be produced to TPH within 24 hours of request; and
- cooperate with infection prevention and control personnel from TPH, including allowing entry into the workplace for inspection.
Although there is some ambiguity, where an employer has multiple workplaces in Toronto, these requirements likely apply to each workplace individually.
Infection Prevention Measures
Under the new requirements, employers must also:
- ensure hand sanitizer and hand-washing facilities are provided in work and rest areas;
- implement rigorous and frequent environmental cleaning in all high-touch areas and those areas accessible to the public;
- regularly review heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to ensure they are functioning well, or have the landlord or property owner do so;
- minimize having multiple people travel together in a vehicle for work-related purposes, but if it is unavoidable, ensure that face coverings are worn in the vehicle and that the windows are open while driving;
- ensure physical distancing of at least two (2) metres between workers throughout the workplace and during eating and rest periods; and
- implement physical barriers, such as plexiglass, when physical distancing is not possible.
Supports for Workers
Employers must also ensure that all employees are aware of income replacement and workplace-related benefits they are entitled to if they have to isolate due to symptoms of COVID-19, being tested for COVID-19, or being a close contact of someone with COVID-19, in order to encourage forthright reporting of COVID-19 symptoms or contact among employees.
Public Reporting of Workplace Outbreaks
Beginning January 7, 2020, TPH will publicly report which workplaces have experienced outbreaks of COVID-19 each week via its online COVID-19 Dashboard, based on the criteria set out below. Each workplace outbreak will be published under one of 11 sector- and/or setting-specific categories.
The criteria for whether TPH will publicly report an outbreak in any given workplace include:
- evidence of sustained transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace;
- the proportion of staff who have been involved in the outbreak;
- the duration of the outbreak and the approximate time for a positive case to generate a second and third positive case, or cases; and
- the size of the workplace, including whether the workplace is large enough such that any privacy concerns are mitigated.
Therefore, TPH will not necessarily publicly report every workplace outbreak of COVID-19 in Toronto and may not report outbreaks that are less severe and/or at workplaces with fewer employees.
As always, we will monitor the progression of COVID-19 related measures affecting employers and post further updates as they become available to keep you In the Know.
This blog is provided as an information service and summary of workplace legal issues.
This information is not intended as legal advice.