On September 26, 2020, a new regulation came into force in Ontario requiring employers to screen workers and essential visitors for COVID-19 symptoms on a daily basis before they are permitted to enter the workplace.
Ontario Regulation 364/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 3 (the "New Regulation") requires that the person responsible for an open business or organization shall operate in accordance with recommendations, advice, and instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health on screening individuals.
The Ministry of Health has published the COVID-19 Screening Tool for Workplaces (the "Screening Tool") for employers to use. Any workers or "essential visitors" entering the work environment should be screened. Examples of essential visitors include delivery, maintenance, and contract workers. Screening is not required for workers working remotely, customers, emergency services, or essential workers who travel outside Canada for work purposes.
Screening should occur before or when a worker enters the workplace at the beginning of their day or shift, or whenever an essential visitor arrives. Employers are recommended to ask the three questions in the Screening Tool at the minimum, but the screening questions can be adapted based on the employer's specific needs. Workers and essential visitors who do not pass screening should not be allowed to enter the workplace and should instead self-isolate and contact their healthcare provider.
Prior to these changes, screening measures were recommended but not mandatory for all workplaces. However, the New Regulation uses mandatory wording: all open businesses "shall" comply with screening requirements. Employers who fail to comply may risk potential fines under Ontario's emergency legislation.
Consequently, employers are advised to implement screening measures if they have not already done so and ensure that they cover the questions and other requirements listed in the Screening Tool. Employers should also keep records of completed screening questions to demonstrate compliance if necessary.
It is probably unlikely that these new requirements will be swiftly or harshly enforced, particularly if screening is being done but records are not being kept. Nonetheless, with COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in Ontario, employers would be well-advised to ensure at least daily screening of workers and essential visitors to minimize the risk of spread in the workplace.
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