Building & Construction

Building & Construction

This page includes resources for workplaces in the Building and Construction industries on work health and safety, workers’ compensation and COVID-19. We also have information for Trades and Home Maintenance. The Building and Construction industries provide residential, commercial, industrial, civil and other construction services. This may include:


  • construction of buildings and other structures

  • additions, alterations, reconstruction and installation

  • maintenance and repairs of buildings and other structure

  • demolition, wrecking or clearing of buildings and other structures

  • blasting and test drilling

  • landfill, levelling, earthmoving and excavating, and

  • land drainage and other land preparation.


Building and construction may take place indoors at construction sites or in finished structures, or outdoors on roads or earthworks sites.

To ensure this information is as accessible and easy to understand as possible, we refer to ‘employers’ and their responsibilities. However, both provincial and state OHS legislation, duties apply to any person conducting a business which includes employers, but also others who engage workers.

Duties Under OHS Legislation

There are current public health directions restricting business operations in some jurisdictions both in Canada and the United States. If you want to know what restrictions on business operations apply to your workplace, go to your relevant provincial or state government website. Businesses must only operate to the extent permissible in each province or state. The information provided below outlines measures which cover all aspects of services offered by the industry – depending on what is permissible in your jurisdiction, some sections may not be currently relevant to your business. 

 

If you want to know how OHS legislation apply to you or need help with what to do at your workplace, contact us on 1 866 337 4734 or through our online contact form.

OHS legislation requires you to take care of the health, safety and welfare of your workers, including yourself and other staff, contractors and volunteers, and others (clients, customers, visitors) at your workplace. This includes:


  • providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risk to health and safety

  • providing adequate and accessible facilities for the welfare of workers to carry out their work, and

  • monitoring the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace for the purpose of preventing illness or injury


Duty to workers


You must do what you can to ensure the health and safety of your workers. You must eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19 if reasonably practicable. If you are not able to eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19, you must minimise that risk, as far as is reasonably practicable. Protect workers from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by, for example:


  • considering working from home arrangements

  • requiring workers to practice physical distancing

  • requiring workers to practice good hygiene (e.g., through workplace policies and ensuring access to adequate and well stocked hygiene facilities)

  • requiring workers to stay home when sick, and

  • cleaning the workplace regularly and thoroughly


Duty to other people in the workplace


You must ensure the work of your business does not put the health and safety of other persons (such as customers, clients and visitors) at risk of contracting COVID-19. Protect others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by, for example:


  • requiring them to practice physical distancing, including through contactless deliveries and payments

  • requiring them to practice good hygiene, and

  • requiring others to stay away from the workplace, unless essential (such as family, friends and visitors)


Duty to maintain the workplace and facilities


You must maintain your workplace to ensure the work environment does not put workers and others at risk of contracting COVID-19. Maintain a safe work environment by, for example:


  • cleaning the workplace regularly and thoroughly

  • restructuring the layout of the workplace to allow for physical distancing, and

  • limiting the number of people in the workplace at any given time


You must also provide adequate facilities in your workplace to protect your workers from contracting COVID-19. Facilities that are required include:


  • washroom facilities including adequate supply of soap, water and paper towel

  • hand sanitiser, where it is not possible for workers to wash their hands, and

  • staff rooms that are regularly cleaned and allow for physical distancing


Provide workers with regular breaks to use these facilities, particularly to allow workers to wash their hands.


Duty to provide information, training, instruction and supervision


You must provide your workers with any information or training that is necessary to protect them from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 arising from their work. Information and training may include:


  • providing guidance on how to properly wash hands

  • training workers in how to fit and use any necessary personal protective equipment (PPE)

  • training workers to exercise adequate cleaning practices throughout the day

  • providing workers with instructions on how to set up a safe home workplace, and

  • providing workers with instructions on staying home from work if sick


Duty to consult


You must consult with workers on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19. When consulting, you must give workers the opportunity to express their views and raise OHS concerns. You must take the views of workers into account and advise workers of the outcome of consultation.


Consult with workers:


  • when you conduct a risk assessment

  • when you make decisions on control measures to use to manage the risk of exposure to COVID-19 (e.g. decisions on working from home arrangements, or restricting the workplace to allow for physical distancing)

  • when you make decisions about the adequacy of the workplace facilities to allow for control measures such as physical distancing and hygiene

  • when you propose other changes that may affect the health and safety of workers, and

  • when you change any procedures that have an impact on the OHS of workers


If you and the workers have agreed to procedures for consultation, consultation must be in accordance with those procedures. You must allow workers to express their views and raise OHS issues that may arise directly or indirectly because of COVID-19. You must take the views of workers into account when making decisions and advise workers of your decision.


Workers are most likely to know about the risks of their work. Involving them will help build commitment to your processes and any changes you implement. Consultation does not require consensus or agreement but you must allow your workers to be part of the decision making process. If workers are represented by health and safety representatives you must include them in the consultation process.


Resources and support


For more information on how we can help, select CONTACT US below or call toll free on 866 337 4734 to arrange an appointment with one of our experienced team members today.


Hygiene

There are current public health directions restricting business operations in some jurisdictions both in Canada and the United States. If you want to know what restrictions on business operations apply to your workplace, go to your relevant provincial or state government website. Businesses must only operate to the extent permissible in each province or state. The information provided below outlines measures which cover all aspects of services offered by the industry – depending on what is permissible in your jurisdiction, some sections may not be currently relevant to your business. 

 

If you want to know how OHS legislation apply to you or need help with what to do at your workplace, contact us on 1 866 337 4734 or through our online contact form.

The main way COVID-19 spreads from person to person is through contact with respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets may fall directly onto the person’s eyes, nose or mouth if they are in close contact with the infected person. Airborne transmission of COVID-19 can also occur, with the greatest risk in indoor, crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces. A person may also be infected if they touch a surface contaminated with the COVID-19 virus and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes before washing their hands. Research shows that the COVID-19 virus can survive on some surfaces for prolonged periods of time.


A key way you can protect workers and others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is by requiring workers and others to practice good hygiene. Below are measures to ensure good hygiene in your workplace. Remember, you must consult with workers and health and safety representatives on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, including what control measures to put in place in your workplace.


Worker and visitor hygiene


You must direct your workers, customers and others in the workplace to practice good hygiene while at the workplace. Good hygiene requires everyone to wash their hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and dry them completely, preferably with clean, single-use paper towels. If paper towels are unavailable, other methods such as electric hand dryers can be used, however, hands will still need to be dried completely.


Everyone must wash and dry their hands:


  • before and after eating

  • after coughing or sneezing

  • after going to the toilet, and

  • when changing tasks and after touching potentially contaminated surfaces.


An alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol as the active ingredient must be used as per the manufacturer’s instructions when it is not possible to wash and dry hands.

Good hygiene also requires everyone at the workplace to, at all times:


  • cover their coughs and sneezes with their elbow or a clean tissue (and no spitting)

  • avoid touching their face, eyes, nose and mouth

  • dispose of tissues and cigarette butts hygienically, e.g. in closed bins

  • wash and dry their hands completely before and after smoking a cigarette

  • clean and disinfect shared equipment and plant after use

  • wash body, hair (including facial hair) and clothes thoroughly every day, and

  • have no intentional physical contact, for example, shaking hands and patting backs.


To enhance good hygiene outcomes:


  • develop infection control policies in consultation with your workers. These policies should outline measures in place to prevent the spread of infectious diseases at the workplace. Communicate these policies to workers

  • train workers on the importance of washing their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying them correctly, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, before entering and exiting a common area

  • place posters near handwashing facilities showing how to correctly wash and dry hands (for example, if hand dryers are used, place posters advising that hands should be dried completely before finishing) and clean hands with sanitiser, and

  • inform workers of workplace hygiene standards that are expected when utilising common areas (cleaning up after yourself, placing rubbish in bins provided, avoiding putting items such as phones on meal surfaces, etc.)


You should put processes in place to regularly monitor and review the implementation of hygiene measures to ensure they are being followed and remain effective.


What do I need to consider when providing hygiene facilities?


You must ensure there are adequate and accessible facilities to achieve good hygiene and that they are in good working order, are clean and are otherwise safe.


You may need to provide additional washing facilities, change rooms and dining facilities. You must also consider whether there are an adequate number of hand washing and drying stations, in convenient locations, to sustain the increase in workers’ practicing good hygiene. You may need to provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser in appropriate locations, such as entry and exits, if there are limited hand washing facilities available.


Washroom facilities must be properly stocked and have adequate supplies of toilet paper, soap, water, and drying facilities (preferably single-use paper towels). They must also be kept clean and in good working order.


When determining what facilities you need consider the number of workers on site, the shift arrangements and when access to these facilities is required.  If you have temporarily down-sized worker numbers in response to COVID-19 and these will now be increased, you must take this into account to determine the facilities you need before workers return to work.


I need to create a new eating or common area. What should I consider when creating these new areas?


If creating a new eating or common area to enable physical distancing, you must ensure these areas are accessible from the workplace and adequately equipped (e.g drinking water, rubbish bins), and protected from the elements, contaminants and hazards. You should also consider opening windows or adjusting air-conditioning for more ventilation in common areas, and limiting or reducing recirculated air-conditioning where possible.


Why are paper towels preferred over hand dryers?


Paper towels are preferable as they can reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 by drying the hands more thoroughly than hand dryers. Hand dryers can still be used, however, there is an increased risk of transmission if hands are not dried properly.


I am providing paper towels in my workplace. What else should I do?


Providing paper towels to dry your hands after washing them is better than using hand dryers because they can dry your hands more thoroughly. If you provide single used paper towels at your workplace, remember:


  • the paper towels should be replenished as required, and

  • used paper towels should be disposed of in a waste bin that is regularly emptied to keep the area clean, tidy and safe.


Wastes (including used paper towels) should be double bagged and set aside in a safe place for at least 72 hours before disposal into general waste facilities. For further information regarding cleaning, please refer to our cleaning guide.


What if I can’t provide paper towels?


If paper towels cannot be provided, then hand dryers may be used to dry hands. You must train workers on how to dry their hands. Placing posters near hand dryers may assist with communicating the need for hands to be dried completely. If hands are not dried completely, good hygiene will not be achieved, and the hand washing will be ineffective.


Frequently touched areas of the hand dryers (i.e. buttons to activate the drying mechanism of the hand dryer) and the entire body of the dryer should be cleaned regularly. Nearby surfaces (such as the sink and taps) should also be cleaned regularly to remove any germs that may have been spread when drying hands.


Resources and support


For more information on how we can help, select CONTACT US below or call toll free on 866 337 4734 to arrange an appointment with one of our experienced team members today.


Physical Distancing

There are current public health directions restricting business operations in some jurisdictions both in Canada and the United States. If you want to know what restrictions on business operations apply to your workplace, go to your relevant provincial or state government website. Businesses must only operate to the extent permissible in each province or state. The information provided below outlines measures which cover all aspects of services offered by the industry – depending on what is permissible in your jurisdiction, some sections may not be currently relevant to your business. 

 

If you want to know how OHS legislation apply to you or need help with what to do at your workplace, contact us on 1 866 337 4734 or through our online contact form.

What is physical distancing and how does it prevent the spread of COVID-19?


Physical distancing (also referred to as ‘social distancing’) refers to the requirement that people distance themselves from others. COVID-19 spreads from person to person through contact with droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets may fall directly into the person’s eyes, nose or mouth if they are in close contact with the infected person. A person may also be infected if they touch a surface contaminated with the droplets and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes before washing their hands.


Current health advice states that in order to reduce the risk of contact and droplet spread from a person, directly or indirectly, and from contaminated surfaces, people should maintain physical distance of at least 2 metres, practice good hand hygiene and engage in routine cleaning and disinfection of surfaces.


Physical distancing can also include requirements for there to be 4 square metres of space per person in a room or enclosed space, as well as limits on gathering sizes. These requirements differ between industries and between provinces and states. For example, some provinces and states have updated public health directions to adjust physical distancing rules in line with local circumstances, such as revising the one person per 4 square metres rule to one person per 2 square metres in some circumstances. For more information about physical distancing requirements applicable to your business, go to your relevant provincial or state government website.


Do I need to implement physical distancing measures in my workplace?


Yes. It is your duty under work health and safety laws to manage the risk of a person in your workplace spreading and contracting COVID-19, including the risk that persons with COVID-19 enter the workplace. Physical distancing is one of the key ways to lower the risk of COVID-19 being spread or contracted at your workplace.


The risk of COVID-19 should be treated in the same way as any other workplace hazard – by applying a risk management approach. In consultation with your workers, including volunteers, and their representatives (e.g. health and safety representatives (HSRs)), you will need to assess the likelihood and degree of harm people may experience if exposed to COVID-19 and then implement the most effective control measures that are reasonably practicable to manage the risk. The control measures you implement should include outcomes that support physical distancing and operate alongside measures encouraging good hygiene amongst workers and others as well as regular and thorough cleaning of the workplace.


To meet your OHS duty you should be continually monitoring and reviewing the risks to the health and safety of workers and others, as well as the effectiveness of control measures put in place to eliminate or minimise these risks. You must also assess any new or changed risks arising from COVID-19, for example customer aggression, high work demand or working in isolation. You may also need to comply with physical distancing measures issued under public health directions in your province or state. Each province and state has directions that reflect local circumstances. For more information about physical distancing requirements, go to your relevant provincial or state government website.


How do the public health directions in my province or state interact with my OHS duty?


You must comply with your province or state’s public health directions that apply to your business. Your OHS duty is to do all that you reasonably can to manage the risks of a person contracting and/or spreading COVID-19 in your workplace. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to implement control measures in order to meet your OHS duty that go beyond the minimum requirements stated in public health directions or advised by public health authorities. For example, public health directions may state you can have up to 10 customers in your shop at any one time. However, in undertaking your risk assessment you may determine that due to the layout of the workplace and your work processes, having 10 customers in the store would not effectively support physical distancing outcomes. Instead, limiting your store to 8 customers at a time would ensure everyone can maintain a physical distance of 2 metres from each other.


How do I determine which physical distancing measures to implement to minimise the risk of COVID 19 spreading in my workplace?


To determine which physical distancing measures will be most effective in your workplace, you will need to undertake a risk assessment. A risk assessment is part of the risk management process which involves identifying where the risk arises in your workplace, assessing the risks (including the likelihood of them happening), controlling the risks and reviewing these controls regularly. These steps remain the same whether you are conducting a risk assessment in relation to work health and safety generally, or specifically in relation to COVID-19. In order to determine the most effective physical distancing measures you will need to:


  • identify all activities or situations where people in your workplace may be in close proximity to each other

  • assess the level of risk that people in these activities or situations may contract and/or spread COVID-19 in your workplace, and

  • determine what control measures are reasonably practicable to implement based on the assessed level of risk


Remember, you must consult with workers, including volunteers, and their representatives (e.g. health and safety representatives) on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, including what control measures to put in place in your workplace.


What physical distancing measures do I need to implement in my workplace?


Below are suggested measures to ensure physical distancing is achieved in your industry. Certain activities may not be permissible or there may be specific requirements in your province or state at this time and therefore some of the proposed measures may not be relevant to your workplace. For more information about physical distancing requirements, go to your relevant provincial or state government website.


Remember, you must do all that is reasonably practicable to manage the risk of people contracting and/or spreading COVID-19. Also remember, you must consult with workers and their representatives (e.g. health and safety representatives (HSRs)) on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, including what control measures to put in place in your workplace.


Worker interactions and work tasks


  • where possible, provide each person with 4 square metres of space in enclosed areas in accordance with general health advice.To achieve this, calculate the area of the enclosed space (length multiplied by width in metres) and divide by 4. This will provide you with the maximum number of people you should have in the space at any one time. Where the nature of work means you are not able to provide 4 square metres of space per person, you need to implement other measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19

  • to help you achieve 4 square metres of space per person (or where not reasonable, to achieve the maximum space per person) limit the number of workers in your workplace by:facilitating working from home for office/administrative workers, where you can reducing the number of tasks to be completed each day, where possible postponing non-essential work, and splitting workers’ shifts to reduce the number of workers onsite at any given time. Schedule time between shifts so that there is no overlap of staff arriving at and leaving the workplace or have different entrances and exits to avoid interaction

  • direct workers to keep 2 metres of distance between them in accordance with general health advice. To achieve the best outcomes for physical distancing implement measures in combination with measures for 4 square metres spacing, as set out above put signs around the workplace and create wall or floor markings to identify 2 metres distance. Your staff could wear a badge as a visual reminder to each other of physical distancing requirements. Limit physical interactions between workers, workers and clients, and workers and other persons at the site – e.g. by using contactless deliveries and limiting non-essential visitors, and require workers to use other methods such as mobile phone or radio to communicate rather than face to face interaction prevent queues at hoists/lifts, and limit the number of workers in the hoist/lift at any one time. Promote the use of stairs but be aware of any new risks that arise from this

  • where it is practical and safe to do so, review tasks and processes that usually require close interaction and identify ways to modify these to increase physical distancing between workers. Where not possible, reduce the amount of time workers spend in close contact. See below for further information where workers are performing tasks in close contact including vehicle use


Layout of the workplace


  • you may need to redesign the layout of the workplace and your workflows to enable workers to keep at least 2 metres apart to continue performing their duties. This can be achieved by, where possible, restricting workers and others to certain pathways or areas, and spreading out furniture or plant to increase distancing

  • consider floor and/or wall markings and signage to identify 2 metres distancing requirements so far as is reasonably practicable


If changing the physical layout of the work site, your layout must allow for workers to enter, exit and move about the work site both under normal working conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety.


Staff gatherings and training


  • postpone or cancel non-essential gatherings, meetings or training

  • if gatherings, meetings or training are essential:use non face-to-face options to conduct – e.g. electronic communication such as tele and video conferencing if a non face-to-face option is not possible, ensure face-to-face time is limited, that is make sure the gathering, meeting or training goes for no longer than it needs to hold the gathering, meeting or training it in spaces that enable workers to keep at least 2 metres apart and with 4 square metres of space per person – e.g. outdoors or in large conference rooms limit the number of attendees in a gathering, meeting or training. This may require, for example, multiple training sessions to be held, and ensure adequate ventilation if held indoors


Workplace facilities


  • reduce the number of workers utilising common areas at a given time – e.g. by staggering meal breaks and start times

  • spread out furniture in common areas. If changing the physical layout of the workplace, you must ensure the layout allows for workers to enter, exit and move about the workplace both under normal working conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable

  • place signage about physical distancing around the workplace. Our website has links to a range of posters and resources to help remind workers and others of the risks of COVID-19 and the measures that are necessary to stop its spread. These posters can be placed around the workplace and in client-facing work environments (e.g. workplace entrances). Consideration needs to be given to how to communicate with workers and others for who English is not their first language

  • consider providing separate amenities for workers and others in the workplace – for example separate bathroom facilities for workers and visitors/clients


Lifts


  • even if workers and others only spend a short amount of time in a lift each day, there is still a risk of exposure to COVID-19 that you must eliminate or minimise so far as reasonably practicable

  • there is no requirement to provide 4 square metres of space per person in lifts, however you must still ensure, as far as you reasonably can, that people maintain physical distancing in lifts and lift waiting areas

  • remember, you must consult with workers and their representatives (e.g. health and safety representatives (HSRs)) on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19.  This includes consulting workers and their representatives on what control measures to put in place to minimise their risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, including when using lifts

  • you must also consult with the building owner/manager and other employers in the building about the control measures to be implemented to address the risk of COVID-19. You may not be able to implement all of the control measures yourself but must work with others to ensure those measures are put in place


What can I do to manage the risk of COVID-19 transmission in lifts?


  • safe use of lifts is best achieved through a combination of measures, determined in consultation with workers, including those that control the number of people needing to use a lift at any one time. This includes reducing the number of workers arriving and leaving buildings and using lifts in peak periods, where possible (e.g. stagger start and finish times for workers by 10-15 minutes per team or group) maintaining working from home arrangements for some staff (where this works for both you and your workers). This could include splitting the workforce into teams with alternating days in the workplace (e.g rotate teams so they are one week in the office and the other week at home), and changing lift programming to facilitate more efficient flow of users – e.g. decrease the time that doors stay open on each floor (where safe to do so) or where there are multiple lifts, assign specific lifts to certain floors based on demand (e.g. lift A to service floors 1-5, lift B to service floors 6-8 etc)

  • where workers and others use lifts it is still important that they physically distance themselves to the extent possible when waiting for a lift and when in the lift. You must do what you reasonably can to ensure crowding in and around lifts does not occur

  • in the lift lobby or waiting area ensure workers and others maintain a physical distance of 2 metres, to the extent possible implement measures at waiting areas for lifts, such as floor markings or queuing systems. Also create specific pathways and movement flows for those exiting the lifts where possible (you may need to consult with your building manager or other employers in the building to ensure this occurs). You could consider engaging someone to monitor compliance with physical distancing measures where appropriate place signage around lift waiting areas reminding users to practice physical distancing and good hygiene while waiting for and using lifts, including to wait for another lift if the lift is full display an advisory passenger limit for each lift – these limits could be temporarily adjusted up by one or two during peak periods where additional demand is unavoidable (subject to it not leading to overcrowding in lifts) to facilitate extra movement of workers and to prevent overcrowding in waiting areas. This may result in fewer persons travelling in a lift at any one time to ensure workers and others maximise physical distance from each other, to the extent possible

  • within lifts users of lifts must maintain physical distancing, to the extent possible. Lifts must not be overcrowded and users should avoid touching other users. Workers must practice good hygiene in lifts. If they do need to cough or sneeze during a journey they must do so into their arm or a clean tissue. Place signage in the lift reminding workers and others to practice good hygiene by washing their hands, or where this is not possible, using appropriate hand sanitiser, after exiting the lift, particularly if they touched lift buttons, rails or doors – see also our information on Hygiene. Implement regular cleaning of high touchpoints such as lift buttons and railings – see also our information on Cleaning

  • staff must not to come into work, including using lifts, if they are unwell


New risks


  • in some cases, depending on the design of a building, stairs may be an option to reduce demand on lifts. If workers and others are to use stairwells or emergency exits as an alternative to using lifts, you must identify and address any new risks that may arise. For example:the increased risk of slips, trips and falls particularly if the stairs are narrow and dimly lit the risk that arises when opening and closing heavy fire doors, and the risk that a person may become trapped in the stairwell

  • you must also consider workers’ compensation arrangements and whether your contract of tenancy allows for workers to use stairs, other than in an emergency

  • you must also consider how other existing OHS measures will be impacted if you allow workers and others to use stairwells or emergency exits. See also our information on Emergency Plans


Deliveries, contractors and visitors attending the workplace


  • non-essential visits to the workplace should be cancelled or postponed

  • minimise the number of workers attending to deliveries and contractors as much as possible

  • delivery drivers and other contractors who need to attend the workplace, to provide maintenance or repair services or perform other essential activities, should be given clear instructions of your requirements while they are on site

  • ensure handwashing facilities, or if not possible, alcohol-based hand sanitiser, is readily available for workers after physically handling deliveries

  • direct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to remain in vehicles and use contactless methods such as mobile phones to communicate with your workers wherever possible

  • direct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before handling products being delivered

  • use, and ask delivery drivers and contractors to use, electronic paper work where possible, to minimise physical interaction. Where possible, set up alternatives to requiring signatures. For instance, see whether a confirmation email or a photo of the loaded or unloaded goods can be accepted as proof of delivery or collection (as applicable). If a pen or other utensil is required for signature you can ask that the pen or utensil is cleaned or sanitised before use. For pens, you may wish to use your own


On-going review and monitoring


  • if physical distancing measures introduce new health and safety risks (e.g. because they impact communication or mean that less people are doing a task), you need to manage those risks too

  • put processes in place to regularly monitor and review the implementation of physical distancing measures to ensure they are being followed and remain effective


Do workers need to practice physical distancing when on a lunch break or when travelling to and from work?


Yes. Workers must always comply with any provincial or state public health directions or orders. This includes maintaining a physical distance of 2 metres between people. In some provinces and states there are strict limitations on gatherings in public places. This means that in some circumstances, workers cannot eat lunch together in a park or travel together in a vehicle to and from work. You should refer to your provincial or state health authority for further information on specific restrictions in place under public health directions or orders in your province or state.


My workers need to travel in a vehicle together for work purposes. How do they practice physical distancing?


You must reduce the number of workers travelling together in a vehicle for work purposes. You should ensure that only two people are in a 5 seat vehicle – the driver and a worker behind the front passenger seat. Only one worker should be in a single cab vehicle. These measures may mean:


  • more of your vehicles are on the road at one time

  • more workers are driving and for longer periods than usual (if driving by themselves)


Because of this, you should review your procedures and policies for vehicle maintenance and driver safety to ensure they are effective and address all possible OHS risks that arise when workers drive for work purposes. If workers are required to travel together for work purposes and the trip is longer than 15 minutes, air conditioning must be set to external airflow rather than to recirculation or windows should be opened for the duration of the trip. You must also clean vehicles more frequently, no matter the length of the trip, but at least following each use by workers. See also our information on Cleaning.


Resources and support


For more information on how we can help, select CONTACT US below or call toll free on 866 337 4734 to arrange an appointment with one of our experienced team members today.


Mental Health

There are current public health directions restricting business operations in some jurisdictions both in Canada and the United States. If you want to know what restrictions on business operations apply to your workplace, go to your relevant provincial or state government website. Businesses must only operate to the extent permissible in each province or state. The information provided below outlines measures which cover all aspects of services offered by the industry – depending on what is permissible in your jurisdiction, some sections may not be currently relevant to your business. 

 

If you want to know how OHS legislation apply to you or need help with what to do at your workplace, contact us on 1 866 337 4734 or through our online contact form.

OHS legislation cover risks to psychological (mental) health too. This is a stressful time for everyone, and you must do what is reasonably practicable to eliminate and reduce the psychological risks to workers and others at the workplace.


Under OHS laws, you must eliminate or minimize the risk to psychological health and safety arising from the work carried out by your business as much as you reasonably can. To determine what measures to put in place, you should carry out a risk assessment and consider all the risks to psychological health in your workplace. You must also consult your workers and their representatives. Workers often know what the issues are and have ideas about how to manage them.


Once you have consulted workers, determined appropriate measures and put them in place, continue to review how you are managing the risks to check your measures are working. This is an unprecedented time for all employers and workers. You may wish to seek professional advice on your OHS duties and how to meet them in your particular circumstances. The OHS regulator in your province or state may also be able to provide further advice.


What causes psychological injury? What are psychosocial hazards?


A psychosocial hazard is anything in the design or management of work that causes stress. Stress is the physical, mental and emotional reaction a person has when we perceive the demands of their work exceed their ability or resources to cope. Work-related stress if prolonged or severe can cause both psychological and physical injury. Stress itself is not an injury. For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced and increased a range of psychosocial hazards in the workplace, at a time when a range of other non-work related psychosocial risks are also occurring (uncertainty about future employment, social isolation etc.). Psychosocial hazards arising from COVID-19 include:


Exposure to physical hazards and poor environmental conditions


  • concern about exposure to COVID-19 at work

  • poor management of OHS risks, lack of equipment and resources, such as insufficient appropriate PPE

  • exposure to poor conditions such as heat, cold or noise in temporary workplaces


Exposure to violence, aggression, traumatic events and discrimination


  • increased work-related violence, aggression and incivility from patients, customers and members of the public

  • serious illness or death of colleagues or clients e.g. nursing home deaths due to COVID-19

  • racism, discrimination or stigma stemming from COVID-19

  • self-isolation as a result of suspected workplace exposure


Increased work demand


  • increased workloads e.g. supermarket home delivery drivers doing more deliveries and longer hours

  • increased time at work e.g. additional shifts as production moves 24/7 to meet increased demands

  • increased workload e.g. because of increased cleaning requirements or reduction of workers in workplace due to physical distancing requirements

  • work required to adjust to rapid change e.g. buying new equipment or setting up new procedures


Low support and isolated work


  • working from home or isolation from others due to physical distancing or isolation requirements results in feelings of not being supported

  • reduction in number of workers at workplace completing physical tasks to maintain physical distancing requirements

  • failure (perceived or real) of employers not implementing new policies and procedure to address new working arrangements


Poor workplace relationships


  • increased risk of workplace bullying, aggression and harassment as pandemic continues

  • workplace racism, discrimination, or stigma, including towards those that have had COVID-19 or are perceived to be a greater risk to others

  • deterioration of workplace relationships as competing demands lead to less regular and effective two-way communication

  • decreased opportunity for workplace social connections and interactions


Poor organisational change management


  • lack of planning as a result of the pace of the pandemic

  • continual restructures to address the effects of COVID-19 and a corresponding failure to provide information and training, consulting and communicating with or supporting workers (eg. manufacturing companies making different products or redeploying staff to meet changes in demand)

  • insufficient consideration of the potential OHS and performance impacts due to COVID-19


Increased emotional distress


  • limitations on workers offering the same assistance to colleagues or clients they normally would or witnessing others’ distress in situations where they can’t access their normal services or support eg. a cancer ward in a hospital has restricted visitors to reduce the risk to patients. The nurses see their patients and family struggle with this isolation.


How can I eliminate and manage risks to psychological health?


You should manage psychosocial risks in the same way as physical risks. Eliminating or minimizing physical risks will also help to manage many psychosocial risks. See also our section about conducting Risk Assessments for COVID-19.


Tips for managing stress from COVID-19


  • regularly ask your workers how they are going and if anything is stressing them

  • where workers are distressed about the challenging conditions caused by the pandemic, acknowledge their feelings about the situation and reassure workers they are doing what they can in the circumstances  stay informed with information from official sources and regularly communicate or share this information with workers

  • consult your workers and representatives on any risks to their psychological health and physical health and safety

  • support innovations to address the psychosocial risks where you reasonably can

  • provide workers with a point of contact to discuss their concerns

  • make workplace information available in a central place

  • inform workers about their entitlements if they become unfit for work or have caring responsibilities

  • inform workers about their rights under OHS legislation, including the right to stop work in certain circumstances and the right not to be discriminated against or disadvantaged for raising work health and safety concerns in the workplace

  • proactively support workers who you identify to be more at risk of workplace psychological injury (e.g. frontline workers or those working from home), and

  • refer workers to appropriate work related mental health and wellbeing support services (such as employee assistance programs)


Non work-related causes of stress


There are things that may stress your workers during the COVID-19 pandemic which may not be work related. Even though you may not have legal obligations in relation to that stress, you should take this into account, and if you are able to, offer workers increased support and flexibility to get through this difficult time. These stressors could include some or all of the following:


  • financial stress e.g. from reduced hours, loss of employment (such as their own secondary employment or their partners)

  • balancing work and caring responsibilities e.g. from trying to work while also meeting the needs of children and others unable to attend their usual activities or care arrangements

  • concern for vulnerable family members/friends e.g. from concerns they might get the virus or increased emotional stress at not being able to visit and assist elderly relatives

  • change to activities that support good mental health e.g. reduced exercise because of closure of gyms, reduced holidays because of travel limitations and reduced social interactions


My workers are worried about catching coronavirus. What should I do?


You should talk to your workers and understand more about their concerns. Once you understand their concerns, ensure you are doing all you reasonably can to eliminate and manage those concerns. For some workers, being more informed about COVID-19 may help ease their concerns. Provide them with relevant information on COVID-19 and remind them of all the measures you are taking in the workplace to reduce possible exposure. You should also remind them of all the services that are available to them for support (e.g. your employee assistance program). It might also be helpful for them to talk to their treating medical practitioners, such as their GP.


What can I do about customer aggression and the stress it’s causing my workers?


See our information on Violence @ Work.


My staff are working from home. How do I look after their mental health?


The duties under the OHS legislation apply to all workplaces, including where a worker is working from home. When you consider the risks to your workers' psychological health and the control measures you will implement to eliminate or minimise those hazards, you need to do this for all your workplaces, including home workplaces. The same things may lead to stress working from home as at the usual workplace, but the controls you put in place may need adjusting (e.g. you might replace a regular staff morning tea, with a weekly email update or videoconference to keep people connected). Where workers are working from home you should consider the tasks you have asked workers to perform from home and whether doing these in relative isolation could cause stress, and what you can do to minimise that stress.


Before you implement any control measures for working from home, you must consult your staff about how they are going, anything that is stressing them and what you can do to minimise that stress. For those working from home, it might be particularly helpful to consult individually, although that may not always be possible. What is essential though, is that there is regular and meaningful communication with your staff, including by telephone and videoconference where you can. Make sure you frequently check in on how they are going and if anything has changed. You should also make sure they know who to talk to if they need additional support or are feeling concerned. See also our information on Working from Home.


What should I do about bullying, harassment and strained relationships in the workplace?


Talk to your workers, identify whether there is anything in their work that is causing strain, for example competing business demands. If possible, address the cause