How to Keep Your Team Safe When Returning to Work Once Restrictions Loosen

Whether you’re an essential business that has remained open throughout this pandemic or are gearing up to re-open your doors as restrictions start to loosen, protecting your team’s health and safety should be your number 1 priority.

But what are the best ways to go about keeping everyone safe as COVID-19 is still very much alive?

We’ll explore the topic of workplace health and safety practices during this unprecedented time so that you and your staff can feel comfortable knowing nobody’s health is being jeopardized by being at work.


Understanding Your Rights and Responsibilities

Organizational Responsibility

Under Ontario’s labour laws, employers are required to take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of their workers.

Here are the formal requirements outline by the Occupational Health and Safety Act:

  • Ensuring your workers understand hazards by providing information, instructions, and supervision on how to work safely
  • Making sure supervisors know the requirements for protecting workers’ health and safety on the job
  • Creating and enforcing workplace health and safety policies and procedures
  • Ensuring staff follow the workplace health and safety policies and procedures
  • Requiring workers to wear the correct protective equipment and carrying out training on how to use it
  • Taking all reasonable precautions to protect workers from being hurt or infected with a work-related illness

Employee Rights

As an employee who’s work meets the definition of critical service and is unable to work from home, your employer may require you to continue reporting to your place of work despite COVID-19. However, you do have rights when it comes to health and safety in the workplace, which are outlined in the Canada Labour Code, Part II.

This includes:

  • The right to know
  • The right to participate
  • The right to refuse dangerous work

Evaluating Your Workplace

As an employer, it is your responsibility to work with your joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative to assess your workplace and determine what steps are needed to protect the health and safety of your team. This includes ensuring all staff work from home if they are capable.

How to Handle Exposure

If an employee shows symptoms of COVID-19 or was exposed to someone with symptoms, ensure that they remain at home and do not return to the office for at least 14 days.

As an employer, you will need to conduct a risk assessment to determine what parts of the office/job site and which staff members were exposed to the employee in question.

Based on the findings from your risk assessment, you may be required to:

  • Have staff who were exposed to the infected worker self-isolate at home for two weeks.
  • Shut down the office/ job site until the workplace and equipment can be fully disinfected

Learn more about how you can keep your team safe and healthy during this time by visiting the following federal and Ontario government links: