Though provinces across Canada have lifted public health restrictions, the pandemic is not over yet. Given the threat posed by COVID-19 variants, it is important that workplaces continue to follow health and safety measures, such as respiratory hygiene, workplace screening, cleaning & disinfection, etc.
COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Testing is a useful screening tool to help reduce the risk of an outbreak in your workplace.
The federal and some provincial governments are offering free rapid tests to eligible businesses, organizations, and not-for-profits. Before you introduce rapid testing in your workplace, you should familiarize yourself with your province’s guidelines on workplace screening programs.
What are rapid tests?
Any diagnostic testing that doesn’t happen in a laboratory is called Point-of-Care (POC) testing.
POC COVID-19 rapid antigen tests look for proteins from the COVID-19 virus. They can be conducted by a health professional or a trained individual. Unlike the lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results that take 24 to 48 hours, POC rapid test results are available typically within 15 to 20 minutes. Rapid Antigen Testing may be carried out at least once a week, and up to two-three times a week.
Currently, a positive result from a Rapid Antigen Test is considered as a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. Individuals who test positive on rapid tests need not further seek a confirmatory PCR/rapid molecular test. PCR testing is now reserved for priority populations who are at risk of severe outcomes.
What are the benefits of rapid testing?
Rapid tests are safe to administer and can be done with just a nasal swab collection. No deep-penetrating nasopharyngeal swab, like in PCR tests, is needed.
The speed factor in producing results makes rapid tests particularly useful in quickly identifying asymptomatic carriers and preventing workplace outbreaks.
Rapid tests should be used as an additional screening tool, along with all other recommended infection prevention and control measures.
Your employees must continue to follow health and safety measures even if their test results are negative.
What are some things to keep in mind when conducting rapid tests?
If you decide to implement Rapid Antigen Testing as an additional screening tool, you should:
- Inform your staff about the new measure, how it works, its benefits and limitations and how you’ll be administering it.
- Outline procedures related to testing. Ask yourself: How often will you test your staff? Do you have a response plan in place in case an employee tests positive?
- Follow privacy laws applicable in your province and maintain confidentiality on test results. Decide on your policy for storing the results securely, the duration for which you’ll keep records, and who’ll have access to the records. You may want to consult your local public health authority for guidelines on keeping and destroying documentation.
- Ensure you follow provincial guidance on workplace Rapid Antigen Testing. Your supervising staff should have received training as advised by your provincial health authority. Follow Health Canada’s recent advisory on conducting rapid tests safely.
- Ensure that the testing takes place in a well-ventilated space and the tester is wearing suitable personal protective equipment (PPE). Remember to clean and disinfect surfaces between users.
What to do if someone tests positive on a rapid test?
When an employee tests positive on a rapid test, you should send the worker home to isolate for the time period advised by your provincial public health authority.
What if a rapid test result is neither negative nor positive?
In such a case, it is considered invalid. The employee should take the test again.
Do you need help creating COVID-19 health and safety policies for your workplace?
Whether you are looking to develop policies to make your workplace COVID-secure or need guidance to prepare for a workplace health and safety inspection, our experts can help. We can also assist you with any HR, health & safety or employment matters that arise.
To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call us today at 1 (833) 247-3652.