Workers Health & Safety Centre

COVID-19 WHSC resources updated to help better protect Ontario workers

A message from Dave Killham, WHSC executive director
 
As 2020 draws to a close COVID cases have reached the highest daily levels since the pandemic began. The challenge to protect workers and their communities has never been greater.
 
For those where the virus struck close to home they understand the pain behind the daily statistical announcements. For those confronting the virus at work the resulting stress is often overwhelming, unimaginable unless you are one of those on the front lines of this pandemic.
 
A lockdown for a time should help, as will an effective vaccine. But neither are a cure-all, especially for workers in workplaces that remain open. Clearly efforts must be redoubled in workplaces deemed essential. This said, now is the time to re-evaluate COVID-19 safety plans in all workplaces, so that when everyone is open they are properly prepared for the remaining indoor winter season ahead. For as long as the pandemic lasts, workers, their representatives, supervisors and employers will need every tool available to them to safeguard workers, their families, friends and communities.

Keeping pace with an evolving pandemic

To this end, we at the Workers Health & Safety Centre have been busy updating and expanding our resources to ensure all workplace parties have access to the information and training they need to exercise their rights and responsibilities.
 
Our understanding of the virus, the conditions that spread it and essential precautions has evolved. Perhaps most prominent is the wider recognition of the potential for airborne transmission. Most now acknowledge enhanced ventilation in indoor work settings and public spaces is critical.
 
Masks and face coverings, particularly in indoor settings, are also now considered essential. In fact here in Ontario, the universal use of masks or face coverings that cover the nose, mouth and chin is mandatory in all indoor public spaces, including workplaces (even those not open to the public). Similarly, eye protection is required if workers come within two metres of another person who is not wearing a mask or face covering during any period when they are indoors, or where they are not separated by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier.
 
Many other precautions have advanced, including the requirement for employers to implement a workplace screening process for workers and others prior to workplace entry.
 
Continued enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols are also leading workplaces to consider safer cleaning and disinfecting products to replace more hazardous ones. Workers do not need to trade their long term health to combat the immediate hazard before them. Under the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, Regulation 833 (Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents) employers must also consider substitution of hazardous substances.
 
All of these issues are reflected in our online library of newly updated COVID-19 information resources.

Training for action

Has your workplace kept pace with these and other preventive actions?

As we have been emphasizing throughout the pandemic, by law, employers must take every reasonable precaution to protect workers from COVID-19. Worker representatives of joint health and safety committees and worker health and safety representatives in smaller workplaces also have a legal right to participate in the development of COVID-19 precautions and their evaluation through workplace inspections. Beyond implementing precautions, employers also have a general requirement to provide workers with information, instruction and competent supervision.
 
While information is important, training, real training, not just the sharing of information, is also a key way employers meet these obligations. WHSC COVID-19 Training, offered through COVID-safe, WHSC virtual classrooms, can assist workplaces seeking to achieve compliance. Through virtual classrooms we also offer Globally Harmonized WHMIS training, plus training to help employers meet mandatory training and competency requirements for supervisorsjoint health and safety committees and worker health and safety representatives, all of whom play essential roles in the pursuit of healthier, safer workplaces, including recommending measures to protect workers from the COVID-19 virus.  
 
Recognizing the toll the pandemic has had on many workers, we have also expanded our virtual classroom offerings to include training programs such as Stress in the Workplace and Psychosocial Hazards and Workplace Mental Health.
 
Beyond scheduled classes, and where participant numbers warrant, we can work with you to coordinate almost any of our training courses in a virtual classroom for all workers, workplace representatives and supervisors.

Our pledge to you

With the 2020 holiday season upon us, on behalf of all at WHSC I wish you and yours the very best. I also want to convey to you we appreciate how difficult the task of safeguarding workers from this deadly virus can be. But you are not in this alone. I pledge our ongoing support in the form of quality information and training resources you can trust to help fight COVID-19 and for that matter all workplace hazards that can rob workers of their lives and livelihoods. Working people deserve no less. Together we can prevail.
 
Dave Killham
WHSC Executive Director

Need more help still?
Contact a WHSC training services representative near you.
Email: contactus@whsc.on.ca
Call: 1-800-869-7950
Visit: www.whsc.on.ca
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