COVID-19 in the Workplace

PCR testing in Niagara is only available to eligible individuals. Public Health doesn't recommend that employers request a negative PCR test for employees to return to work after isolation. Public Health is unable to clear employees for work. Use the self-isolation guidance to find out how long an employee should self-isolate or self-monitor.

Public Health recommends closing your workplace or business for 10 days when:

  • A total of five persons in the workplace have symptoms and/or test positive on a PCR or rapid antigen test in any combination, AND
  • The individuals who notified you
    • Attended the workplace 48 hours before they developed symptoms, OR
    • Had no symptoms, but attended the workplace within 48 hours of their positive test result

If you live or work in a congregate setting or are a health care worker, please use the online reporting portal to report your positive test result.

How to keep your workplace and business safe

Employers and employees have a role to play to reduce the community spread of COVID-19.

Below is information for workplaces and businesses, except health care settings. This will help you prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep your staff, customers and visitors safe.

For questions about changes you can make in your building to reduce the spread of COVID-19, visit our Public Health measures for workplaces page, email our Public Health inspectors or call 905-688-8248 ext. 7590.

  • What to do if someone in your workplace is sick with COVID-19 symptoms

    If someone is sick at work and / or if someone tests positive on a laboratory PCR or rapid antigen test, even if they have no symptoms, send them home and instruct them to isolate immediately. For information on isolation guidelines and to determine how long your employee should isolate, see self-isolation.

    Following a workplace case, the following enhanced measures are recommended:

    • Temporarily shift all possible employees to working from home for one week
    • Increase frequency of rapid antigen tests to three times a week, or even daily if supply allows
    • Renew emphasis on safety measures outlined in the "How to reduce transmission and keep employees safe" section below
  • What to do if someone tests positive for COVID-19 on a laboratory PCR test or is positive on a rapid antigen test

    Direct your employees to the self isolation guidance where they can find detailed information about how to proceed after a COVID-19 diagnosis.

  • What if someone in your workplace lives in the same household with someone that has tested positive?

    Employees that are household members of a person testing positive on a laboratory PCR test or rapid antigen test are to self-isolate.

  • How to identify contacts

    A contact is anyone who was less than two metres away even for shorter periods of time in the 48 hours before symptoms began or a positive test result of another individual - whichever came first.

  • What should you tell a contact?

    Visit self-isolation to find out who must self-isolate and who can self-monitor for symptoms.

  • Contact tracing in the workplace

    Due to a rapid surge in cases, Public Health will no longer be able to follow up with contacts and cases. Please read the instructions above carefully so that you can provide your employees with the correct information. At this time, it is advised that anyone with symptoms begin self-isolation and test as soon as possible.

  • Returning to work

    Public Health doesn't recommend that employers require testing or doctor's notes for return to work. Some individuals will continue to test positive for COVID-19 for many months, long after they're no longer contagious. See self-isolation for information on when your employees can return to work after a COVID-19 infection or being a contact.

    Currently, if employees can work from home, they should.

    Employees returning from international travel

    Learn about the changing travel requirements to address COVID-19 Omicron variant of concern.

    Public Health is unable to clear people for travel if they test positive on a rapid antigen test or for employment purposes.

  • How to reduce transmission and keep employees safe
    • Encourage your staff to get their vaccine as soon as they're eligible
    • Screen employees for symptoms and high-risk exposures every day that they come to work:
    • Follow public health guidance on preventive measures
    • Keep a list of names and contact information for those who attended in-person business meetings or events for at least 30 days. This list will help you reach high-risk close contacts if needed.
    • Clean and disinfect surfaces that may have been touched by the sick employee as soon as possible. Follow public health advice for enhanced cleaning and disinfection measures to reduce the risk of spread.
    • Review your sick leave policies or establish new non-punitive sick leave polices. Make sure employees with symptoms or household contacts stay home and self-isolate.
    • Have a COVID-19 workplace safety plan in place to help make the workplace safer for everyone

    Masks

    According to Public Health Ontario, in the current Omicron risk context, it's recommended that mask fit and filtration are optimized. This can be achieved by wearing a well-fitted medical mask or a non-fit tested respirator (N95s, KN95s). A high quality three-layer non-medical mask, such as cloth masks, can be a reasonable alternative if it promotes adherence. Respirators are designed to closely fit or seal to the face, and while fit-testing is not required for use in the community, N95s without fit-testing and KN95s cannot be assumed to filter all of the air inhaled, such as respiratory protection.

    Employers may consider ensuring all employees are wearing masks of at least medical grade or higher at all times, especially if employees must work within two metres distance.

  • Protecting employee confidentiality

    Personal information collected for COVID-19 contact tracing can only be used for this purpose, unless an individual provides their consent.

    Ensure you maintain privacy and confidentiality of employees' and patrons' personal health information at all times. Avoid the use of personal identifiers if asked to notify others that a person who was in the workplace, floor, or area was infected or exposed to COVID-19.

    Follow your organizational policies and work with your occupational health and safety department (if you have one) to determine how your organization will handle a positive case. In general, Niagara Region Public Health will only communicate to the public, such as social media, letter, email or e-blast, when there is risk of COVID-19 and there are no other options to notify these contacts.

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