In March, a sucker punch from COVID-19 knocked the wind out of the Canadian economy as much of the country’s commerce ground to a halt. Today, business owners are dusting themselves off and are preparing to get in the ring for another round as the country braces itself for a second wave of the novel coronavirus.
“Employee Safety has to be paramount,” according to Laurie Jessome, partner in the employment and labour group at Cassells Brock and Blackwell in Toronto. “Employers must make sure that they are up to date on our best understanding of how the virus is transmitted and then apply that knowledge to their own workplace to ensure that they are taking every reasonable precaution to provide their employees with a safe work environment”
When putting together a reopening plan, business owners must be flexible and consider input from workers. From dentists to hair salons and barbers – everyone set goals, started with a plan and made modifications once they received feedback from workers on how their jobs were impacted by the various control measures.
To help- and ultimately keep their businesses operating – employers should adopt policies that permit workers to stay home with pay to care for sick family members and abolish attendance-management programs, according to Winters, while workers who exhibit flu-like symptoms should also be sent home with pay.
Further considerations include administrative controls, such as screening people who enter an office or worksite and routinely cleaning all frequently touched surfaces such as workstations, elevator buttons and doorknobs.
Employers must get a handle on what workers do day-to-day and task-to-task to mitigate all hazards, figure out the level of risk that is attached to the work and then put control measures in place. In general, employers have a duty to provide a safe and healthy workplace, so developing a plan is part of it.