The Government of Ontario has announced that employers are now required to screen employees and essential visitors for COVID-19 symptoms in the workplace. “Essential visitors” refers to individuals providing a service in the workplace who are not employees or patrons, such as delivery, maintenance and contract workers. Pursuant to Ontario Regulation 364/20 (the “Regulation”), under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, employers must comply with the advice, recommendations and instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health on screening individuals.
The “Screening Tool”, published by the Ministry of Health, imposes the following minimum set of questions that should be used to screen individuals for COVID-19:
- Do you have any of the following new or worsening symptoms or signs? [Symptoms should not be chronic or related to other known causes or conditions]
- Fever or shills
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Sore throat, trouble swallowing
- Runny nose/stuffy nose or nasal congestion
- Decrease or loss of sense of smell or taste
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain
- Not feeling well, extreme tiredness, sore muscles
- Have you travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days?
- Have you had close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19?
The above questions may be adapted based on the specific setting and needs of a workplace.
If the worker answers NO to all questions from 1 through 3, they have passed and can enter the workplace.
If the worker answers YES to any question from 1 through 3, they have not passed and they should be advised that they are not to enter the workplace, and they should self-isolate and call their health care provider or Telehealth Ontario to find out if they need to get tested.
Screening should take place before or when a worker enters the workplace at the beginning of their shift, or when the essential visitor arrives on site. The Regulation does not detail whether records of screening must be retained; however, it is our recommendation that screening records be retained for at least a month and longer if possible.
Employers who fail to comply with the screening requirements may be ordered to comply. Further failure to comply with an order may result in a fine.
Employers should also recall that the screening requirement is in addition to the general compliance measures already imposed under the Regulation, which require that those responsible for the business:
- Ensure that the business operates in accordance with all applicable laws, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act; and
- Operate the business in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials.