What employers should do
Employers must take every reasonable precaution to protect the health and safety of workers. In order to limit exposure to COVID-19 during the pandemic, employers must comply with requirements set out in:
Employers are asked to consider having workers work remotely (e.g. work from home) where practicable, as part of the effort to slow the progression of COVID-19 (coronavirus) through social distancing.
The first step is to assess whether workers need to come to work.
When considering if and when workers can be kept out of the workplace, employers should:
- Curtail non-essential work at the workplace.
- Consider reducing the number of staff in a shared space to allow for adequate distancing and reduce the potential for physical interaction. This could include having workers work remotely.
Once it is deemed workers can work from home, employers need to consider health and safety responsibilities when working from home.
To support this practice, WorkSafe Saskatchewan suggests the following guidelines for employer and worker responsibilities, to ensure their workspace is healthy and safe.
For specific business and industry information on steps to take for COVID-19 safety in your workplace, please refer to the following links:
Employers should ensure their health and safety policy includes provisions for working from home and that each party understands their role, duties and responsibilities.
The policy should require employees to conduct an assessment of the workspace in their home and report any hazards to their manager. An example of some other factors to consider in this policy review include:
- Protocols for evacuating from the home or temporary workplace to a safe location, if needed, and how to contact the employer in case of an emergency.
- Discussion of safe workplace practices and how to report any work-related incidents or injuries.
- Discussion of ergonomic considerations.
- Communication between employer and worker.
- Availability of tools and technology to enable staff to work remotely.
- Protocols to protect a worker’s health and safety.
- Contact with customers, if applicable (e.g. practices that limit direct contact).
Many health and safety roles, rights and responsibilities are just as applicable for at-home workers as they are for more traditional workplaces, including:
- Reporting workplace injuries.
- Requirements for education and training.
- Worker’s duty to follow safe work procedures.
- Requiring check-in and other procedures if the worker is working alone or in isolation.
Some health and safety requirements will need to be administered in different ways for at-home staff, including:
- The role of the worker’s supervisor will need to be outlined.
- Ergonomic assessments will need to be performed and control measures implemented.
- How the employer will follow-up on reported incidents will require special consideration in advance of any work being done from a residence.
Employers should ensure the following workers do not come to the workplace if:
- Workers are ill, whether or not the illness has been confirmed as COVID-19.
- Workers have travelled outside Canada. In these cases, they must remain away from the workplace for at least 14 days.
For further information, please visit the following links:
- Q&A for employers: Role of public health in COVID-19 case and contact follow-up
- COVID-19: Questions and answers on leaves, layoffs and occupational health and safety in the workplace
- COVID-19 workplace contact notification toolkit
Workers who have been exposed to anyone confirmed to have COVID-19, or to anyone with possible symptoms of COVID-19, should call the Saskatchewan Health Line at 811 to determine any necessary next steps.
If it is necessary for workers to come to work, employers should take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
The priority should be to take steps to ensure social distancing is practiced in your workplace, including:
- Reconfiguring the workplace to maintain appropriate distance between workers, if practicable.
- Limiting in-person gatherings and encouraging practices like teleconferences as an alternative.
- Limiting worker travel.
- Ensuring workers wear a non-medical mask or face covering when required in the workplace.
- Educating workers on health and safety measures to prevent transmission of infectious disease.
- Increasing workplace cleaning, providing the necessary supplies and reinforcing personal hygiene messages to workers.
Public health orders remain in effect and measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 must still be followed.
Public health orders will continue to apply during implementation of the five-phase plan to Re-Open Saskatchewan. Please refer to this resource regularly for up-to-date information on pandemic control recommendations.
Communicating about COVID-19 in the workplace
- What are you telling your workers about the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in your workplace?
- Do you have a system in place whereby workers, including occupational health committee (OHC) members or occupational health and safety representatives, can inform you of their concerns about being exposed to COVID-19 at work? Find out if there are specific job duties that concern them (such as tasks that involve interacting with others).
Identifying exposure hazards and developing measures to control exposure
- What are you doing to prevent your workers from being exposed to COVID-19?
- Have you developed and implemented an exposure control plan?
- Have you done a walk-through of your workplace to identify specific conditions or tasks that may increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19?
- Have you asked your workers (including your OHC members or an occupational health and safety representative) where exposures could occur and how they think they could be controlled?
- Have you developed controls that will eliminate or minimize the risk of exposure?
- What are those controls?
- Have you put them in place?
- If you’ve put them in place, how can you tell if they’re working?
Controlling the number of people on-site
- How are you controlling the number of workers and other people at your workplace?
- Do all your workers need to come to work? Can some work from home? (Learn about health and safety responsibilities when working from home.)
- Can you stagger shifts to reduce the number of workers present at one time?
- Are you ensuring there is adequate cleaning between shifts?
- Can you prioritize what work needs to be done on-site, safely and productively, to help your business operate as close to normal under the circumstances?
- If you have workers who need to come to your workplace, how are you ensuring the following measures are being taken to reduce their risk of COVID-19 exposure? Different workplaces will have different needs but the following measures are a good start:
- Use physical barriers, if you have them (for example, Plexiglas shields and drive-through windows).
- Position workers to allow for physical distancing. Ensure there are two-metres between workers and between workers and customers.
- Provide soap and water or hand sanitizer and encourage workers to wash their hands frequently.
- Enhance cleaning and disinfecting of your workplace, particularly high-contact surfaces such as door and faucet handles, keyboards and shared equipment, such as photocopiers.
- Ensure workers wear a non-medical mask or face covering when required in the workplace.
- How are you checking whether the above steps are being taken?
A framework called a “hierarchy of controls” is used to select a way of controlling workplace hazards. Employers must perform a hazard assessment and risk analysis to identify existing and potential hazards at a work site. This includes identifying existing and potential risks to the health or safety of workers at the work site and the measures that will be taken to reduce, eliminate or control those risks.
The best way to control a hazard is to remove it from the workplace, rather than relying on workers to reduce their exposure. During the COVID-19 outbreak, when it is not possible to eliminate the hazard, the following are the most effective controls:
- Engineering controls. Engineering controls protect workers by placing a barrier between workers and hazards, thus reducing the extent of exposure. Examples include high-efficiency air filters, increased ventilation and physical barriers.
- Administrative controls. Administrative controls change the way people work and consist of policies and procedures that minimize the risk of exposure.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE). Workers wear PPE to help protect themselves from hazards. PPE includes gloves, gowns, eye protection, face masks and respirators.PPE should fit workers properly in order to provide optimal protection and it should be used correctly. To ensure correct use, employers need to train workers on when to use it, what PPE to use and how to put it on and take it off. Workers also need to be trained on the limitations, the care, storage, maintenance and disposal of the equipment. PPE must be in good condition and maintained to perform the functions for which it is designed.
Employers may need a mix of engineering and administrative controls as well as PPE to protect workers. Effective controls for workplace hazards depend on site- and task-specific factors. Employers need to do a risk assessment to determine what controls would be most appropriate at their work site for the tasks that workers are performing.
Find additional resources at:
- Government of Saskatchewan
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
- Government of Canada – Risk mitigation tool for workplaces/businesses operating during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Government of Canada – Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Accessing personal protective equipment
- Appropriate use of PPE guidelines
We know that as employers are making decisions about how best to ensure the health and safety of workers and of citizens they serve there are a number of questions that have arisen. The Government of Saskatchewan has developed some questions and answers to assist employers and employees at this time. For more information, click here.
- Governement of Saskatchewan – COVID-19 – Workplaces
- Government of Canada – How businesses and employees can stay safe while operating during COVID-19
- Government of Saskatchewan – COVID-19 guidelines
- Government of Saskatchewan – COVID-19 workplace information
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety – COVID-19: Provincial guidance – Saskatchewan
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety – COVID-19: Prevention
- Government of Saskatchewan – COVID-19 information for businesses and workers