COVID-19 (2019 Novel Coronavirus)

Workplaces & Municipalities

This section contains general information on COVID 19 designed to support workplaces and employers.  Lambton Public Health provides advice based on best practices, available evidence and in the interest of employee and community health. Individual employers are responsible for decisions regarding worker safety as per the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act and other applicable legislation.

Recently, the province issued an emergency order to close at-risk workplaces and encourage non-essential businesses to find ways to help their employees work from home. 

For the list of workplaces designated as essential services, visit Government of Ontario’s website.

To provide support to Ontario businesses that have questions, the province has launched a toll-free line 1-888-444-3659. Help is available from Monday to Sunday, from 8:30 a.m.―5:00 p.m.

Along with provincial government, Lambton Public Health reminds businesses to put in place protocols for physical distancing and regular hand-washing and cleaning in order to protect the health and safety of employees and the general public

Frequently Asked Questions

My co-worker is caring for ill family members. Can he/she be forced to stay home?

At this time, there are no legal obligations for people to not attend work based on the situation you describe, therefore, no method to report.

Please refer to the Ministry of Health for information and requirements for self-isolation.

In saying this, however, it is recommended that anyone who is living with others who are ill and self-isolating should be taking precautions as much as possible to limit the transfer of the illness. Refer to this document for precautions to take that you could share with your co-worker.

Please refer to our web site for further information regular updates as things may change as this situation evolves.

My co-worker just returned from a trip outside Canada. Can he/she be forced to stay at home?

As of midnight March 26, 2020 all travellers returning to Canada must immediately self-isolate at home for 14 days (invoked by the Quarantine Act). Failure to comply with the act could result in penalties (fines or jail time).

Self-isolation (14 days) is also required for travelers arriving in Canada prior to March 26th; penalties are not anticipated for travelers returning to Canada prior to March 26th.

Note, there may be exceptions for workers who are essential to the movement of goods and people.

Individual employers are responsible for decisions regarding worker safety as per the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act and other applicable legislation.

My workplace remains open. How can we achieve social distancing?

The following measures can help you achieve social distancing:
• Provide a 2 meter space between yourself, co-workers, employees and patrons (e.g. moving desks etc.)
• Consider working from home
• Work flexible hours
• Vary shift start/end times and break times
• Limit the number of patrons/clients you have close contact with (e.g. fewer scheduled appointments, limited number of patrons in a store at any one time); and
• Using email and teleconferencing instead of meeting in-person if applicable
• Refer to working in retail FAQ for other safety precautions (e.g. cleaning, hand-washing, etc.).

I work in retail, how can I protect myself?

There are preventative steps you can take to help protect yourself and others from spreading COVID-19:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds (especially after using the washroom and before preparing food, eating meals/snacks/candy or medicine). Alternatively use hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol content.
• Always clean your hands when you take your breaks and when you leave work to go home.
• Wearing gloves may be an option if your employer is able to supply such personal protective equipment, but hand washing is key! If gloves are worn, they should be changed frequently and hands washed once removed.
• Avoid touching your face, including your eyes, nose and mouth.
• Frequently touched surfaces should be disinfected at least twice a day (e.g. desks, phones, cash registers, door handles, lunch room areas and appliances).
• Practice social distancing, which involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come into close contact with. For example:
    ○ Provide at least 2 metres between yourself, other staff and customers (e.g. you may be able to help create and remind customers of a 2 metre buffer throughout the store, including the cash register, using signs, tape markings, or verbal reminders).
    ○ If you feel comfortable you can encourage your manager/ employer to promote social distancing among customers when able.
• Avoid contact with people who are sick. If you are sick, stay home and complete the COVID-19 online self-assessment tool.
• Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your arm, not your hand.
• Talk with your employer and joint health and safety representative about additional workplace precautions to reduce your risk. Your employer may also decide to implement flexible hours, stagger staff start times, limit the number of customers in the store at a time, and/ or other preventative measures. For resources to share with your employer to increase preventive measures in workplaces, you can refer them to Lambton Public Health: Workplaces and resources at this link.

I have a medical condition that puts me at risk of complications due to COVID-19. How can I protect myself? Should I go to work?

Individuals with underlying medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, heart disease) may be at risk for more severe outcomes. Learn about what preventive measures persons with underlying medical conditions should take.

As of March 24, 2020 the Ontario government announced a list of essential services. Consult this list to determine if your workplace is considered (non) essential.

Employment insurance (EI) sickness benefits are available to eligible claimants who are unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine, to allow them time to restore their health and return to work. Learn more about the available options.

For resources to share with your employer to increase preventive measures in workplaces, you can refer them to Lambton Public Health: Workplaces and resources at this link.

Other supportive resources for you:
Ontario Human Rights Commission
COVID-19: Updates on the law and legal services

Are campgrounds and playgrounds permitted to be open?

On March 19, 2020, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, as well as the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, announced that all provincial parks (including car camping, backcountry camping, roofed accommodations, day use opportunities and all public buildings) are to be closed to the public until April 30, 2020. They plan to reassess in April.

No formal recommendations have been made regarding municipally operated campgrounds. However, consistent with the province’s direction, social distancing recommendations, and the recommendation that any unnecessary trips outside of the home be limited at this time, it is recommended that all municipally operated campgrounds also close until April 30, 2020.

Due to the difficulty in keeping playgrounds sanitized, many municipal playgrounds have closed. Check with your municipal office to determine if their playgrounds are opened.

As of March 23, 2020, Lambton Kent District School Board Playground Equipment is closed.

Is my business allowed to be open? Where can I get more information?

The Ontario Government has ordered the closing of all non-essential businesses. Consult the list of essential businesses as outlined by the Government of Ontario. If your business is not an essential service and you have further questions, please call 1-888-444-3659. Monday to Sunday, 8:30 am to 5pm.

If your business is an essential business, follow the outlined precautions to protect yourself and fellow staff:
• Post reminders on how to prevent infection. Use this Public Health Ontario resource.
• Educate staff to regularly wash their hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds (especially after using the washroom and before preparing food, eating meals/snacks/candy or medicine). Alternatively use hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol content.
• If possible, provide access to hand washing areas and place hand sanitizing dispensers in prominent locations (e.g. all entrance points) and throughout the workplace.
• Educate staff to cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their arm, not their hand. Have extra tissues available.
• If staff are sick, encourage them to stay home and complete the COVID-19 online self-assessment tool.
• Clean frequently with particular attention to high-touched surfaces, such as desks, phones, kitchens, computers, cash registers, elevator buttons, door knobs, restaurant takeout counters and menus, lunchroom areas (microwaves, fridges, counters, sinks, tables).
• Practice social distancing which involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come into close contact with:
    ○ Providing a 2 metre space between yourself, co-workers, employees and patrons (e.g. moving desks, adding barriers to counters).
    ○ Working from home
    ○ Working flexible hours
    ○ Staggering start times
    ○ Limiting the number of patrons/clients your employees would have close contact with (e.g. fewer scheduled appointments, limited number of patrons in a store at any one time); and
    ○ Using email and teleconferencing instead of meeting in-person
• Consider permitting flexible work hours and sick leave:
    ○ Relax sick leave policies to support employees in self-isolating when ill. This includes suspending the need for medical notes and reduces the burden on an already stressed health care system.
• If COVID-19 symptoms develop, the employee should immediately be separated from others and sent home without using public transit, if possible.

I am concerned that a local business remains open, but feel that they are not an essential service. Who can I contact to take corrective action?

Public health is not involved in the enforcement of business closures. Park closures are enforced through your municipal bylaw. Contact your municipality regarding park closures.

The Government of Ontario developed a list of essential services (review the list regularly as it may change). If a business category is not identified on this list you can call 1-888-444-3659 (Monday to Sunday, 8:30 am to 5pm) to confirm whether it is an essential service.

When can I return to work if I have COVID-19 symptoms?

Please refer to this section of Lambton Public Health website.

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