Ontario employers must ensure new screening procedures are being implemented in the wake of mandatory workplace screening requirements.

As the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic hit the province with a huge spike in COVID-19 cases, the government amended section 2 of Regulation 364/20 (Rules for Areas in Stage 3) on September 26, 2020. All businesses and organizations are now required to screen workers and essential visitors daily for COVID-19 symptoms before they are allowed to enter the premises.

The amendment requires employers to implement these new screening procedures or face charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) that would be laid by the Ministry of Labour:

“The person responsible for a business or organization that is open shall operate the business or organization in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health on screening individuals.”

COVID-19 Screening Tool for Workplaces

Along with the new provision, the Ontario Ministry of Health released a COVID-19 Screening Tool for Workplaces (Businesses and Organizations) for workers and essential visitors who enter the work environment at the beginning of their day or shift or on arrival of an essential visitor.

The Screening Tool consists of a short questionnaire that covers:

  • new or worsening symptoms,
  • whether someone has travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days,
  • and whether they have had close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.

If individuals answer no to all questions, they can enter the workplace but if they answer yes, they should be advised not to enter, including outdoor or partially outdoor workplaces.

The term “worker” refers to staff and includes “students, contractors or volunteers that conduct business or related activities where applicable and appropriate.” Essential visitors include “individuals providing a service in the establishment who are not employees or patrons of the establishment (e.g., delivery, maintenance, contract workers).”

The Screening Tool excludes patrons (e.g., customers who enter a grocery store, restaurant, bar or other food or drink establishment) who enter a workplace, as well as emergency services or other first responders who enter a workplace for emergency purposes. It adds that “essential workers who travel outside Canada for work purposes should not be excluded entry on this basis alone.”

Anyone who has passed the screening should be allowed into the workplace but should immediately report any symptoms that arise. Those who do not pass the screening should be told not to enter the workplace, to self-isolate and to call their healthcare provider or Telehealth Ontario.

Advice for Employers

Most employers have already set up workplace screening procedures but they should make sure to follow the new Screening Tool requirements.

Workplaces should have a check-in area near the entrance and those with more than one entrance should either direct people to the main entrance or set up screening stations at each entrance to ensure everyone is screened.

Employers should secure completed screening forms and keep them confidential to ensure that no personal health information is disclosed to others unnecessarily. It’s also a good idea to limit the number of people who conduct the screening.

The government has not provided specific information on how employers should implement the Screening Tool, collect and store all responses, or how long the information should be kept.

For advice on these and other employment or labour law matters, contact the offices of Toronto employment lawyers Grosman Gale Fletcher Hopkins LLP. We regularly advise workplace parties on a wide range of legal workplace issues. Contact us online or by phone at 416-364-9599 to schedule a consultation.