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Health and SafetyJune 12, 2020by Peninsula TeamCOVID-19: Steps to Take if an Employee at Work Tests Positive


Provinces across Canada are easing the lockdown in phases as they work to contain the pandemic. Currently, AlbertaBritish Columbia and most parts of Ontario are in phase 2 of reopening.

As you prepare to reopen your business, you need to ensure your workplace complies with the current health and safety guidelines. It is important to prepare a return to work plan, which includes health and safety controls, cleaning and disinfection policies and physical distancing measures. You should inform your staff and clients about the measures that you’ll be implementing.

It is also advisable to create a protocol to follow in case an employee at work experiences COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive for the virus. The protocol should clearly list the steps to be taken and your employees should be briefed about it as well.

Can I take temperature checks to monitor staff for symptoms?

Temperature checks may not be a foolproof way of testing for COVID-19. It is possible that someone may not have fever and still be a carrier of the virus. Temperature checks also require an employee’s prior written consent. They could be classified as medical information, which is private and confidential.

A more thorough way to monitor symptoms of COVID-19 in the workplace is to get your staff to fill out a questionnaire before every shift. “It should include questions such as ‘Do you have a cough? Are you experiencing fatigue or trouble breathing?’ These are the key symptoms we want people to look out for,” says Hope McManus, Head of Health and Safety at Peninsula Canada.

OntarioBritish Columbia and Alberta also have online assessment tools, which you can ask your employees to use on a regular basis.

What should I do if an employee in the workplace tests positive for COVID-19?

We recommend that you take the following steps:

1. Ask your employee to go home right away to reduce the risk of transmission in the workplace.

2. Review the areas in the office where the employee has been since the onset of symptoms.

3. Thoroughly clean and disinfect the said areas immediately. Remember to clean and disinfect touch points such as door handles, elevator buttons, desks, chairs, coffee machine, any computer or electronic equipment, etc.

4. Make sure the employee promptly contacts the public health authority in your province. Public Health will speak to the affected employee and prepare a list of names of people who may be at risk. These individuals will be contacted and asked to either:

a) Monitor their symptoms.

b) Self-isolate for 14 days from the onset of symptoms in the employee who tested positive.

5. Do not share the name of the affected employee with the staff. However, you should let your staff know that there has been a COVID-19 case in the workplace. Apprise them of the measures you have implemented to ensure their safety. Advise them to use your questionnaire to self-monitor, even if they have not been in contact with the employee.

Your employee will be on temporary medical leave till they recover. Make sure the affected employee has medical clearance before they re-join work.

You may want to check in with the affected employee while they are on medical leave. It is a thoughtful way to let your staff know that you care for their well-being.

What if a client shows symptoms in the work premises?

It may be a good practice to set up client meetings by appointment only. Email them the questionnaire before the meeting. If they are showing symptoms, it is best to reschedule till they get themselves tested.

If a client is already in the workplace and shows symptoms, request them to reschedule. Rigorously clean and disinfect the areas the client used. Tell any employees who were in contact with the client for three minutes or longer to self-monitor.

If that client does test positive for COVID-19, you will be contacted by Public Health if you are at risk.

Want to know your employer obligations surrounding COVID-19 health and safety?

For advice on health and safety policies during the pandemic, call our experts today: 1 (888) 938-0468.