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COVID-19: Workplace Policies and Implementing Prevention Measures

April 20, 2020

While gradual “deconfinement” measures are currently being discussed, new information has been published with respect to worker health and safety in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers are advised to adopt a COVID‑19 policy detailing the prevention measures in place that workers are required to follow to ensure the health and safety of everyone.
On April 13, 2020, the Comité tactique CNESST – Chantiers COVID-19, which was established by the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST), issued, in collaboration with the Direction de la Santé publique and construction sector employers’ associations and unions, various prevention measures aimed at protecting workers’ health in the context of reopening certain construction sites. While these measures were developed for construction sites, they can provide food for thought to employers in Quebec who wish to implement a COVID‑19 policy or improve an existing policy on the matter.
It is also important to keep in mind that every worker must take the necessary measures to protect their own health, safety and physical integrity, as well as to not jeopardize the health, safety and physical integrity of others in or near their workplace. These obligations include compliance with the requirements implemented by employers as part of a COVID-19 policy.
The daily health assessment of workers is relevant where workers must physically report to their workplace to perform their duties—such as a factory, store, etc.—and a significant number of workers will be present in that establishment at the same time.
In this context, the employer should assess the health of each worker upon their arrival and ask them the following questions:

  • Does the worker present any of the following symptoms: cough, fever, difficulty breathing or sudden loss of smell?

  • Has the worker returned from a trip outside the country in the last two weeks?

  • Has the worker been in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19?

The Comité tactique CNESST – Chantiers COVID-19 recommends against taking workers’ temperatures, as results may be unreliable, especially for workers who carry out their duties outdoors.
If a worker answers “yes” to any of the questions above, that worker should return home and remain there for a sufficient period of time to minimize the risk of propagation within the workplace.
The Direction générale de la Santé publique authorizes the lifting of confinement measures only when all the following criteria have been met:

  • A period of at least 14 days has elapsed since the onset of the acute phase of the illness

  • There have been no acute symptoms for a period of 24 hours, with the exception of a residual cough which may persist

  • There has been no fever for a period of 48 hours, without taking an antipyretic

As it would be difficult to obtain certification that the above criteria have been met for each individual worker, the Comité tactique CNESST – Chantiers COVID-19 has concluded that employers should not require a doctor’s note from workers prior to authorizing their return to work. Employers should therefore exercise good judgment when assessing whether a worker should return to work after testing positive for COVID‑19.
The following is a reminder of the basic hygiene measures recommended by the Direction de la Santé publique. These measures should be implemented in all workplaces during the pandemic and integrated to employers’ COVID-19 policies:

  • Wash hands frequently with warm running water and soap for at least 20 seconds

  • Use an alcohol-based disinfectant if soap and water are not available

  • Cover mouth and nose with arm when coughing or sneezing to reduce the spread of germs

  • Remain at home at all times if symptoms develop (cough, fever, difficulty breathing or sudden loss of smell)

  • Avoid direct contact (e.g. handshakes) when greeting others

  • Practice social distancing, with a recommended distance of two meters between each person

Should you have any questions regarding COVID-19 and its implications on health and safety in the workplace, including employers’ legal obligations and practical tips and measures to implement, please contact:
Natalie Bussière                       514-982-4080
Francis L. Racine                      514-982-4149
or any other member of our Employment & Labour group.
Please visit our COVID-19 Resource Centre to learn more about how COVID-19 may impact your business.