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HomeNews & ArticlesThe Coronavirus: Best Practices for Small Businesses
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The Coronavirus: Best Practices for Small Businesses

March 16, 2020  |  By:  William Keele

Like all Ontario businesses, Oatley Vigmond is carefully monitoring the outbreak of COVID-19 in the province in order to comply with Ontario Public Health guidelines, and to ensure the safety of our employees and clients.

Given the fluid and quickly evolving nature of the pandemic, and the response from municipal, provincial and federal authorities, we thought it would be helpful to outline some the best practices with respect to small businesses at this time.

As with most common illnesses, the workplace is susceptible to the spread of COVID-19 because of the proximity between workers, and the use of shared surfaces and objects. COVID-19 appears to spread in a similar way to the flu or common cold: infected droplets may be deposited on surfaces and objects, and another person may touch contaminated surfaces or objects, and then touch their mouth, eyes or nose. Someone can also catch the virus by breathing in droplets of infected fluid if they are within one meter of another person.

With this in mind, consider the following best practices as listed by Ontario Public Health and the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Actively encourage sick employees to stay home:
• Employees with symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (37.8 degrees Celsius or greater), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours. Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
• Employers should ensure that their sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
• Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
• Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.

Separate sick employees:
• Employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or who become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).

Provide proper information and resources to employees:
• Employers should place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and proper handwashing technique at the entrance to the workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
• Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
• Instruct employees to avoid physical contact at work including hugs, handshakes, and “high fives”. Wherever possible, have employees observe a required distance of 2 metres from each other.
• Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
• Instruct employees to refrain from touching their face, especially their mouth, nose and eyes.
• Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. Place hand sanitizer in multiple locations, throughout the business, especially high traffic areas such as conference rooms, kitchens, and reception.

Perform routine environmental cleaning:
• Regularly clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace such as desks or other work surfaces, countertops and doorknobs.
• Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.

Implement clear policies regarding travel:
• Require employees who travel outside of the country to notify their supervisor of their travel plans.
• Advise employees to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before starting travel and notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
• Require employees to follow all public health directions regarding self-isolation periods after travelling outside of the country. The federal government is requiring all travelers arriving from an international destination to self-isolate for 14 days.
• Confirm that the employer may restrict travel to areas subject to a Government of Canada health travel notice to avoid non-essential travel or to avoid all travel.

It is our responsibility as business owners and citizens to take the necessary steps to limit transmission of COVID-19, and to flatten the curve of infection.

If you exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 call Telehealth Ontario at: 1-866-797-0000, or contact your local public health unit.

About the Author

William Keele

William Keele (“Will”) joined Oatley Vigmond in 2019 after working for 9 years at a prominent Toronto personal injury boutique firm. Will is passionate about helping seriously injured clients...

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