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coronavirus at the workplace

Preventing Coronavirus At The Workplace

With the flu season in full swing and the Coronavirus crisis capturing 7 confirmed cases in Canada (as of February 10th), we put together a few precautions employers can take to protect their team from becoming sick.

It is important to note that as of today, the Public Health Agency of Canada has assessed the public health risk associated with the 2019-nCoV in Wuhan, China to be low for Canada and for Canadian travellers. However, the public health risk is continually reassessed as new information becomes available.

Symptoms To Be Aware Of:

Symptoms of Coronavirus range from common to severe respiratory illnesses:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pneumonia and kidney failure
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

How to Protect The Workplace:

The best way to reduce the risk of exposure to the flu, Coronavirus or similar illness in workplaces and at home is to use basic hygiene precautions and to avoid close contact with ill people.

  • Send a memo to your staff that if they have flu-like symptoms, advise them to stay at home.
  • If any employee experiences flu-like symptoms that persist for more than 2-3 days or seem to be worsening, it is advisable to get it checked out by their doctor immediately. 
  • If an employee does get sick, advise the employees to seek medical assistance immediately and ask that they stay at home to rest and recuperate.
  • Disinfect/sanitize your immediate and common work surfaces including door knobs, keyboards and mice surfaces.
  • Make disinfectant wipes available around the office for employees.
  • Defer business travel to Coronavirus hot spots. Suggest web conference as an alternative.

How To Protect Yourself:

  • Consider getting the seasonal flu shot. (For Flu and colds – This will not immunize you from the Coronavirus COVID-19)
  • Drink plenty of fluids (water, hot soups etc. – stay hydrated). Avoid Caffeine.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid frequently touching your nose, mouth and eyes.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your upper sleeve(s). Dispose of used tissues appropriately.
  • Avoid contact with loved ones or co-workers to avoid spreading the illness.

Feeling Sick After Travel:

If you have an employee with symptoms of an existing medical condition, and these symptoms worsen while travelling or they are still sick when they return to Canada:

  • Tell a flight attendant or a border services officer when you arrive so they can decide whether you need further medical assessment
  • See a health care provider immediately and tell them the countries you visited, and if you received medical care (for example, blood transfusions, injections, dental care or surgery)

Do You Have An Affected Employee? 

Although it is an employer’s priority to protect their employees from exposure to the Coronavirus, acting on assumptions, suppositions and beliefs, rather than objective facts, may cause an unwitting result in a breach of the Human Rights Code. 

However, employees who have recently travelled to affected areas or have had close contact with someone who has Coronavirus-related symptoms, should be advised to seek immediate medical attention.

This may involve the employee notifying their physician or public health unit/department in advance to be directed to the appropriate emergency department or established virus centre. Please note that the employer is not legally required to report a suspected case of Coronavirus to a local Public Health Unit – the treating physician or medical practitioner will do so.

For additional resources and additional Public Health information please click on the following:

Canadian Public Health Agency on Wuhan Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

Public Health Information on Flu Prevention & Risks