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Return to Work: An Employer’s Checklist for a Safe Reopening


It’s your time to shine.

As Ontario moves into the final step of its Roadmap to Reopen, you can get ready to open shop and welcome back staff and customers in the weeks ahead.

But as you prepare your blueprint for a safe reopening, you must factor in post-lockdown COVID rules and health and safety measures.

To prepare for all possible challenges, we recommend that you tick off the following checkboxes:

Develop COVID-19 polices

As fresh challenges arose during the past year, you may have already created new workplace policies to deal with them. But as you reopen you may face new risks that you should prepare for. To ensure you build a safe post-lockdown workplace, you must have policies on:

Comply with all health and safety requirements

You must follow the Public Health restrictions (as per the Roadmap to Reopen), which apply to your industry.

COVID-19 risk assessment & workplace safety plan

All employers must carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment in their workplace. Based on the hazards identified, you must develop a COVID-19 workplace safety plan.

All businesses that are open are required to have a written safety plan under the law. It should provide details on the safety controls and measures you will follow to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in your workplace.

The plan must be regularly reviewed, updated, shared with all workers and contractors. You have to put up in a place where it is easily visible.

Screening of staff and visitors

You must actively screen all your employees (even those fully vaccinated) using question-based screening tool before they enter the workplace.

If possible, you must also actively screen customers and visitors. You can even do so over the phone or online. At the minimum, you must passively screen all visitors. You can do so through clear signage that includes screening questions and informs people with symptoms to not enter.

Those who pass the screening must continue to follow public health guidelines on masking, physical distancing, and hand hygiene on entering your premises.

COVID-19 Testing (Optional)

If you are in a high-risk industry, you may want to implement COVID-19 testing as a part of your screening processes (though this is not mandatory).

The COVID-19 Rapid Screening Initiative can help supply you with COVID-19 tests if your business is eligible for free test kits.

It is advised that you consult legal experts before using rapid antigen screening for visitors to understand legal issues related to privacy and human rights.

Safety guidelines for meal and break periods

Employers must ensure common areas for eating, taking breaks, and changing are well-ventilated and spacious enough to allow for physical distancing.

Read our blog on health and safety measures to limit risk of infection during lunch breaks for more information.

Using masks in the workplace

Ontario requires use of face masks in the indoor premises of all businesses, organizations, public spaces, and vehicles (including buses, trains, ferries, rideshares and taxis), unless exempt for a medical reason.

You must communicate your masking policy to all employees and visitors. You must also post signage in the workplace (including at the entrance) informing all visitors that masking is mandatory.

Do you need help reopening your business safely?

Our experts can help you develop company policies as well as with any other HR, health and safety, or employment advice you may need. See how we have helped other small and medium businesses get their business compliant with provincial legislation.