Conducting a hazard assessment and developing a safety plan

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In order to limit exposure to COVID-19, employers must complete a hazard assessment and follow the hierarchy of controls to determine appropriate preventative measures for their specific:

  • workplace setting
  • workers
  • contractors
  • clients

This planning tool will guide you through six steps in the process of conducting a hazard assessment and developing an appropriate safety plan.

Personal information must not be included in a safety plan. Personal information is any recorded information that uniquely identifies a person, such as a person’s name, age, sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, blood type, criminal or employment history, financial information, education or health information.

  1. Step one: Assess the hazards in your workplace

COVID-19 spreads in several ways. It can be transmitted from person-to-person via coughing and sneezing (droplet transmission). It can also be spread by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing or sanitizing your hands. While it is not yet known exactly how long COVID-19 lives on surfaces, preliminary evidence suggests it can live on objects and surfaces from a few hours to several days.

Involve workers when assessing the workplace. Identify areas where there may be potential risks of COVID-19 exposure either through close physical proximity or through contaminated surfaces.

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  • We have involved frontline workers, supervisors, managers and occupational health committee (OHC) members or occupational health and safety representatives.
  • We have done a walkthrough of the workplace to identify specific conditions or tasks that may increase the risk of worker exposure.
  • We have identified areas where people gather, such as break rooms, production lines and meeting rooms.
  • We have identified job tasks and processes where workers are close to one another or to members of the public. This can occur in your workplace, in worker vehicles or at other work locations.
  • We have identified the tools, machinery and equipment that workers share while working.
  • We have identified surfaces that people touch often, such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, faucets and light switches.
  1. Step two: Implement protocols to reduce the hazards

Implement protocols to minimize the risks of transmission. The following information may provide some guidance:

  • Review the industry specific guidelines available in the Re-open Saskatchewan Plan to determine if any are relevant to your industry.
  • If guidelines are available specific to your sector or industry, implement these where they are applicable to the hazards at your workplace. You may also need to implement additional control measures to address the hazards to your workers.
  • Implement and follow public health orders, guidance and recommendations in the Re-open Saskatchewan Plan.
  • Follow the guidelines or protocols from your health and safety association or other professional industry associations. Limitations of the implemented infection control measures should be identified in the protocol.

Reduce the hazard of person-to-person transmission by implementing controls

To reduce the risk of the virus spreading, implement protocols to protect against identified hazards. Whenever possible, use the protocols that offer the highest levels of protection. This may mean you need to incorporate controls from various levels to address all of the hazards in your workplace.

First level of protection: Elimination

Use policies and procedures to follow the public health orders. Limit the number of people in your workplace at any one time and ensure physical distancing wherever possible. Rearrange work spaces or reschedule work tasks to ensure that workers are two metres apart from one another and from customers.

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  • We have established and posted occupancy limits for our workplace, including break rooms, meeting rooms, washrooms, elevators, photocopy spaces, storage rooms, etc.
  • We have considered work-from-home arrangements, virtual meetings, rescheduling tasks and limiting the number of customers or visitors in the workplace.
  • We have implemented measures to keep workers at least two metres apart wherever possible.

Second level of protection: Engineering controls

If you cannot maintain physical distancing, install barriers and partitions to separate people.

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Third level of protection: Administrative controls

Establish rules and guidelines, such as posted occupancy for shared spaces, a designated delivery area and one-way doors or walkways, to keep people physically separated.

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Fourth level of protection: Personal protective equipment

If the first three levels of protection are not enough to control the hazard, consider the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Ensure workers are using PPE appropriately.

Non-medical masks or face coverings are not PPE. If they are used in a workplace setting, be aware of their limitations. The provincial government has guidelines on the use of non-medical masks or face coverings.

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Employers must conduct a hazard assessment with their OHC or occupational health and safety representative to ensure that any control measures implemented are not introducing new hazards for the workers in a workplace setting.

  1. Step three: Develop policies

Develop the necessary policies to manage your workplace, including policies around who can be at the workplace, how to address illness that arises at the workplace and how to keep the workers safe in adjusted working conditions. Having a policy around what an investigation looks like when a worker tests positive for COVID-19 is also recommended.

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Our policy to address workers who start to feel ill at work includes:

  • Directions for sick workers to report to first aid if applicable, even with mild symptoms.
  • Directions for sick workers to wash or sanitize their hands, be provided with a mask and isolated. Direct the workers to go straight home and call the Saskatchewan HealthLine at 811 for further guidance. If the worker is severely ill, call 911.
  • Clean and disinfect any surfaces that an ill worker has come into contact with.
  1. Step four: Develop communications plans and training

You must ensure that everyone entering the workplace, including workers from other employers, knows how to keep themselves, and those around them, safe while at your workplace. This plan must be in writing and available to workers.

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  1. Step five: Monitor your workplace and update plans as necessary

As you continue to operate your business, things may change. You may identify new areas of concern or need to address a process that isn’t working. Involve your employees and OHC or occupational health and safety representatives in reviewing and updating policies and processes.

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  1. Step six: Assess and address hazards after resuming operation

If your business has not been operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may need to manage the hazards associated with resuming or reopening your business.

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