In response to the recent surge in positive COVID-19 cases, the Ontario government has introduced a mandatory screening tool that all businesses and organizations must use for workers or essential visitors visiting their workplace.
While Regulations under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 already required open businesses to operate in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials, including on physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting, the Regulations have now been amended to require compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health on screening individuals. In conjunction with this amendment, the Ministry of Health has recommended the use of its new ‘Screening Tool for Workplaces’, which provides a standard form questionnaire for determining whether a worker may be permitted to enter a workplace. Due to the requirement to operate in compliance with “recommendations” of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, this “recommendation” is effectively mandatory.
According to the accompanying guidance from the Ministry of Health, the Screening Tool should be implemented for any workers or essential visitors entering the work environment. Workers include staff, students, contractors and volunteers that conduct business or related activities. Essential visitors include individuals providing a service in the establishment who are not employees, such as delivery, maintenance or contract workers.
The Screening Tool does not need to be used for patrons or customers entering a workplace that is an establishment, such as a coffee shop or restaurant, or for emergency services or other first responders entering a workplace for emergency purposes. The Screening Tool also does not apply to health care settings and other non-health care workplaces where existing screening requirements are already in place (e.g. congregate living settings).
The Screening Tool should be used either before or as soon as a worker arrives at the workplace for his/her/their shift, or the essential visitor arrives at the workplace for his/her/their visit. The individual must answer questions about any new or worsening symptoms, travel outside of Canada, and contact with confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19. If an individual responds affirmatively to any question on the Screening Tool, the individual has not passed the screening test and should be advised that they should not enter the workplace. The individual should self-isolate and call their health care provider or Telehealth Ontario to determine whether they need a COVID-19 test.
The questions outlined in the Screening Tool are considered by the Ministry of Health to be a minimum standard which may be specifically adapted based on the applicable setting and related needs of the workplace. This means that employers can use their own screening tool, provided it meets or exceeds the standard outlined in the Ministry of Health’s Screening Tool.
Employers were required to begin using the Screening Tool (or equivalent/more rigorous own version) as of Friday September 25, 2020. Copies of the completed screens should be retained as a record of compliance, and please remember to be careful to store them in a manner that respects the privacy of the information they contain.
Stay safe and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.