The province's COVID-19 Response Framework, was announced in late 2020, and aims to keep Ontario "safe and open". It contains public health and workplace safety measures, including a requirement for some workplaces to have a safety plan to control COVID-19 transmission. Even if this requirement doesn't apply to your workplace, a ministry inspector could ask to see your plan.
Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) have tools to help.
The framework features five progressive levels - Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect, Orange-Restrict, Red-Control, and Lockdown. Levels are assigned on a regional or community basis, and are determined by an assessment of risk in the particular region or community. Each level builds on the previous level, and includes workplace safety measures, such as requirements for workplace screening.
The two highest levels also require the following types of businesses to present a safety plan on request:
- restaurants, bars and food or drink establishments
- sports and recreational fitness operations
- meeting and event spaces
- retail businesses
- personal care services
- casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments
- performing arts facilities
Think of creating a plan as an investment in your business, says WSPS Account Manager Lori McIlwraith. As infection rate surges across the country, minimizing the risk of transmission could help keep employees and visitors safe, and non-essential workplaces operating.
How to create your safety plan
"A safety plan provides a documented approach to what your workplace needs to do and how you’re going to do it," explains Lori.
The process for drafting a plan is straightforward. A safety plan template created by the provincial government poses six questions:
- How will you ensure all workers know how to keep themselves safe from exposure to COVID-19?
- How will you screen for COVID-19?
- How will you control the risk of transmission in your workplace?
- What will you do if there is a potential case of, or suspected exposure to, COVID-19 at your workplace?
- How will you manage any new risks caused by changes to the way you operate your business?
- How will you make sure your plan is working?
The template is part of a guidance document that includes explanatory information and possible considerations. Your answers to the questions form your plan.
"This simplifies the development process into a series of manageable steps so that workplaces can treat it as they would any other hazard," says Lori.
Pre-planning with the provided guidance helps your workplace be prepared for any changes or developments. Having one document for training, communicating and common expectations during this pandemic also creates a common understanding within the organization, and a sense of stability that allows you to focus on your business and your people.
WSPS sample safety plans can save you time
A series of sample sector-based plans created by WSPS may give you a head-start in creating your plan. Check them out here.
"The content of some sections in the sample plans is similar across sectors," says Lori. "For example, how you screen for COVID-19 and how to respond to a positive case of COVID-19 are often the same regardless of the business you're in."
Where your plan may differ is with hazard controls. "We find that most workplaces are already addressing the controls aspect," continues Lori. "What they may not be doing is compiling all the information in one document. This ensures the workplace provides a consistent approach to managing the hazards, which is really important."
Who should participate in creating your plan?
Lori recommends including:
- Senior individuals within your company, whether this means a small business owner or a management team in a larger business. They need to be close to plan development and roll-out because they'll need to make decisions on resourcing.
- Worker representation, such as your joint health and safety committee or representative, to make sure that the plan's suggestions can actually be implemented on the floor. Workers could also help identify potential hazards introduced by new controls.
How WSPS can help?
- Download a template for developing a COVID-19 workplace safety plan. Start by watching a short video on this topic.
- Watch this pre-recorded webinar, Keeping Ontario Safe and Open - Building Your Safety Plan
- Sector-specific best practices and hazard controls for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Choose from more than 100 COVID-19 sector-specific health and safety guidance documents containing sector-specific best practices and hazard controls for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Explore WSPS' full range of solutions for businesses in Northern Ontario.