Niagara Region Public Health has recently issued a letter on Sept. 24 to all Niagara employers with advice and recommendations to keep workplaces safe during the fourth wave.
With the Delta variant currently driving a fourth wave in Niagara, there have been 13 workplace outbreaks so far in September. This has required many employees to isolate as close contacts, disrupting business and impeding the economic recovery that so many businesses need.
Vaccination polices, screening and rapid tests are the first lines of defence that keep infection out of the workplace. Businesses can go to any of their local Chambers of Commerce in Niagara to book and pick up rapid tests for their workplaces.
Where an infected employee or patrons nonetheless enters the workplace, businesses can put the following measures in place to reduce the likelihood of an outbreak, as well as reduce the severity of an outbreak should it occur. Each of these provides an additional layer of protection against spread of COVID-19, and all should be used to minimize risk.
Vaccination policies for staff and vaccination requirements for patrons
Ensuring that all employees and/or patrons are vaccinated against COVID-19 is the most effective measure of protecting everyone in a workplace. Vaccinated individuals are less likely to bring COVID-19 into the workplace and spread it to others, and less likely to infect others if they do get sick. A workplace vaccine policy for employees is recommended to maximize vaccine uptake in the workplace.
Physical distancing in the workplace
Maintaining a physical distance of two metres between everyone in the workplace reduces risk of COVID-19 transmission. This includes minimizing the number of workers and patrons in the premises to ensure this distance can be maintained, and organizing the position and movement of people through the space to minimize close contact of less than two metres.
Personal protective equipment including masks and eye protection
Masks and eye protection prevent COVID-19 transmission by blocking virus. Masks must be worn by all staff indoors at all times, unless working alone or outdoors where two metres distance can reliably be maintained. Eye protection must be worn whenever physical distance of two metres cannot be maintained, especially when in contact with patrons.
Air filtration and ventilation
Ventilation brings in fresh air and removes air from the workplace which can become laden with COVID-19-containing aerosols. HVAC systems should be regularly maintained, and doors and windows should be kept open as much as weather permits. Filtration using a HEPA filter in either an HVAC system, or portable air purifier unit can remove virus-laden aerosol from the air in the space where ventilation is limited.
Niagara Region Public Health’s letter of recommendations summarizes these and other measures that will keep employees and patrons safe. Further COVID-19 guidance for businesses can be accessed on Niagara Region Public Health's website. Business that have questions are invited to call the COVID-19 Info-Line at 905-688-8248 press 7, then press 3 or toll-free at 1-888-505-6074.
Niagara Region Public Health