New Mandatory Screening for Employees and Essential Visitors in Ontario Workplaces

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As part of increased measures to help stop the surge of COVID-19 cases, the Government of Ontario amended O. Reg 364/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 3 (the “Regulation”) effective September 26, 2020. The amendment requires any person responsible for a business or organization that is open to 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.

The Ministry of Health has concurrently issued a “COVID-19 Screening Tool for Workplaces (Businesses and Organizations)” (the “Tool”). The Tool contains recommendations for businesses or organizations for COVID-19 screening under the Regulation. Despite the permissive language used in the Tool, compliance with the recommendations are obligatory.

The Tool provides that a workplace’s screening tool should include at least three screening questions for any workers or essential visitors entering the workplace, which include asking whether the individual has:

  • Specified new or worsening symptoms or signs,
  • Travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days, and
  • Had close contact with a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19.

Screening should occur before or when a worker enters the workplace, at the beginning of their day or shift, or when an essential visitor arrives:

  • “Worker” refers to staff and is intended to include 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 Tool does not apply to patrons entering a workplace (e.g., customers entering a grocery store, restaurant, bar or other food or drink establishment). It also excludes emergency services or other first responders entering a workplace for emergency purposes, and essential workers who travel outside of Canada for work.

The Tool indicates that any worker or essential visitor who does not pass screening should be advised that they should not enter the workplace, should self-isolate immediately and contact their health care provider or Telehealth Ontario to determine if they need a COVID-19 test.

For further information or advice regarding this change, including how to implement a screening tool in your workplace or about your rights and obligations as an employer when dealing with COVID-19, please contact J.D. Sharp at 613-940-2739, Vicky Satta at 613-940-2753 or Colleen Dunlop at 613-940-2734.