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Workplaces and COVID-19: Occupational Health and Safety Considerations for Reopening and Operating During the Pandemic

By October 14, 2020 No Comments

There are many occupational health and safety considerations relevant to the physical and psychological health of workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. If a workplace has been closed or operating at reduced capacity, employers must consider the health of the building and building systems before resuming operations. Building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and water systems can harbour other microbiological and chemical hazards that must be considered and controlled (e.g., Legionella). Before workers return to the worksite, a risk assessment should be conducted to identify jobs or tasks where there may be an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. Efforts to reduce the likelihood of transmission within the workplace should follow the hierarchy of controls.

Where potential exposure cannot be eliminated through a shift to isolated or remote work (e.g., work from home), engineering and administrative controls can be implemented. Workspaces can be altered, and the scheduling of workers and work activities can be adjusted, to minimize close contact and maximize physical distance. Improved ventilation rates and improved filtration within HVAC system can also help reduce the probability of transmission. These strategies should be combined with the use of face coverings and good hand hygiene to reduce transmission of COVID-19. Multifaceted interventions are likely to be more effective at controlling workplace hazards. Prevention and control of COVID-19 should be part of a comprehensive occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS), including meaningful worker consultation.

A new evidence-informed CSA Group Research Report reviews and summarizes occupational health and safety practices that can support safer reopening and ongoing operation of workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic.