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TRAINING & EDUCATION: What employers need to know when dealing with possible COVID-19 cases on a worksite
June 29th, 2020 8:33 pm     A+ | a-
Andrew PariserAmina Dibe

By Andrew Pariser & Amina Dibe / RESCON

Diane Laranja, partner at Filion Wakely Thorup Angeletti, a management labour and employment law firm, spoke recently to RESCON members and provided  a legal update on COVID-19 and what employers should do when responding to a suspected or positive case of the disease on a worksite.

She was a presenter at the virtual event organized by RESCON on June 16 called COVID-19: Adjusting to the New Normal.

Laranja's presentation included slides and information to help contractors observe best practices and understand their legal obligations.

She practices out of the firm's Toronto office, with a particular focus on occupational health and safety, disability accommodation, grievance arbitration, construction labour relations, and workers’ compensation matters.

Laranja is a past vice president and board member of Canadian Association of Women in Construction (CAWIC).

In a morning session that lasted about an hour and a half, she presented a slide show and spoke to members about the importance of being prepared and the hierarchy of controls.

According to the hierarchy, the most effective way to deal with COVID-19 is to physically remove the hazard (elimination), followed (in order) by, replacing the hazard (substitution), isolating people from the hazard (engineering controls), changing the way people work (administrative controls), and protecting the worker with personal protective equipment (PPE).

Best practices for implementation, according to Laranja, are:
  • implement a reliable system
  • appropriate staff training
  • precautions for staff conducting the testing
  • clear notice to those who are impacted
  • when possible, screen in private areas
  • prepare procedures for “failed” screening or refusal
  • properly maintain confidentiality
When responding to a positive or suspected case of COVID-19, the first step is to contact public health authorities while the second step is to identify those who have come in close contact with an infected worker.

Laranja suggested that companies work with a diagnosed worker to identify others they've had close contact with and advise them to self-isolate.

The third step for contractors is to notify the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) of a positive or presumptive case.

The fourth step is to notify at-risk workers who were in close contact with the individual and those who worked in the same workspace but were not in close contact.

The fifth step involves notifying authorities. Under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA), employers must report injuries and illnesses sustained during the course of employment to the WSIB. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), employers must report occupational diseases to the Ministry of Labour. The bottom line, according to Laranja, is that employers must report COVID-19 when it’s contracted in the workplace.

She stressed that shutting down a worksite is not needed for every case of COVID-19 but may be required where there is community spread within a jobsite.

A jobsite must be shut down, though, if ordered by public health authorities, noted Laranja.

As for contact tracing applications, she said there are workplace considerations such as employee privacy, how data will be collected and managed, and whether to make the apps mandatory or voluntary.

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