To assist our members, Local 79 has developed the following guide for COVID-19 safety measures in City of Toronto workplaces. This information is intended as a guide for Local 79 Officers and members. Staff should always report any workplace concerns to their manager/supervisor. This information should also be considered alongside Toronto Public Health guidelines.
Local 79 has been in daily contact with the City regarding safety measures for our workplaces in these trying times. We have stressed that our workplaces require that protocols be developed, and protective equipment be made available to our members. Our emphasis has been on Screening, Personal Protective Equipment and Cleaning protocols and Social Distancing in the Workplace.
For those locations that work with clientele (SSLTCH, SSHA etc.), screening is especially important. Local 79 is advocating for the City to perform the following during screening:
- Screen all workers, clients and visitors. While most locations no longer allow visitors, workplaces that do and/or contain residents, should have screeners. Screeners should ask:
“Do you have any upper respiratory tract infection including fever, new cough or difficulty breathing? These symptoms may be accompanied by muscle aches, fatigue, headache, sore throat, runny nose or diarrhea. Yes or no?”
If yes, ask the client to sanitize their hands and put a mask on, or ask the client to leave while maintaining a two-metre distance as per social distancing. Refer the client to Telehealth Ontario for a phone assessment or to a Toronto Region COVID-19 Assessment Centre.
If no, the screener should ask the client if they have travelled out of country in the last 14 days or if they have been exposed to someone diagnosed with suspected COVID-19 (if yes to any of these subsequent questions, refer the client to Telehealth Ontario for a phone assessment). Maintain social distancing.
- Workers who perform screening should have droplet PPE available to them immediately. Local 79 recommends that this PPE include masks, goggles and gloves while screening. We understand that community transmission is in play and workers in this role should be protected as a frontline service. If this is not the case in your workplace and you need assistance, please contact one of Local 79’s Health & Safety Coordinators.
- We now understand that some screeners are taking temperatures and might be required to break the social distancing recommendation of two metres. In this case, we believe full droplet protocol is necessary; again, this includes masks, goggles and gloves.
Ongoing monitoring in the workplace
Ongoing self-monitoring is important. You should report to your supervisor immediately if you feel unwell. Follow the guidelines set out for self-assessment by the Ontario Ministry of Health’s self-assessment tool. Follow public health guidelines and stay home if you are feeling unwell or have travelled.
If clients are present in your workplace, protocols for monitoring these individuals during COVID-19 should be in place. Ask your manager what these protocols are. If you are in a workplace that requires some monitoring of clients’ health/welfare as part of your work responsibilities, request the appropriate PPE. Again, PPE should always be available if the client is or becomes symptomatic.
Finally, an isolation room should be made available for any client that has symptoms. Please check with your supervisor to make sure there is a protocol on how to bring a person experiencing symptoms out of the building to access services that they may require. If there is no such protocol in place, then please let Local 79 know so that we may follow up.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Local 79 believes that members’ safety is paramount. Protocols for the general public do not apply in workplace settings where social distancing is not always possible (i.e. shelters, public health and long-term care). Local 79’s position is that PPE should be made available to workers who perform screening and provide close person-to-person service delivery in some instances.
- Screeners – see above.
- Close contact during work hours (i.e. bed checks, direct resident care). Staff should assess the individual per public health protocol, then request the appropriate PPE from their manager if required to serve the client. This includes gloves, goggles and mask.
Anyone who is required to use PPE should be trained appropriately, including donning (putting on) and doffing (removing).
A note about understanding the requirement for masks:
According to Public Health Ontario, surgical masks are sufficient in preventing exposures in a droplet scenario. Droplets are created by an infected individual who sneezes or coughs. These droplets are typically heavy and will fall to the ground quickly.
There have been concerns about mask types. While Local 79 advocates for the best protection possible, we must recognize that this virus has not been deemed airborne. If COVID-19 becomes airborne, the N95 masks will become mandatory.
A clean workplace reduces the chances of infection from surfaces that may cause transmission of the COVID-19 virus. The City must initiate higher cleaning standards; all high-touch surfaces must be cleaned on a frequent basis with an appropriate cleaner. During COVID-19, some members will be experiencing additional duties with respect to assisting with surface cleaning and frequency of cleaning.
There should also be deep cleaning performed on a regular basis — especially true for environments that have a large number of personnel/clients. The City should also have the ability to perform emergency cleaning. Local 79 has advocated for the best possible cleaning practices in your workplace. The City is also making use of additional facilities staff to increase cleaning protocols.
For your protection, ask about your workplace’s Screening, Personal Protective Equipment and Cleaning protocols. If you feel there are unmet needs in your workplace, notify your manager/supervisor. If your issue or concern is not resolved, contact Local 79 and we will assist in a resolution.
Your Local 79 Health & Safety Coordinators are:
You can also contact your Unit Officer directly if you have been dealing with them, or have other concerns.
REMINDER: Other methods of maintaining on-going health and safety in the workplace include: washing your hands, using available hand sanitizer supplied by the workplace and refraining from touching your face and eyes.
What is the value of social distancing?
Social distancing means creating physical distance between you and others to limit the transmission of a virus. Toronto Public Health’s guideline is two metres (six feet). Physical distance helps prevent the transmission of COVID-19 because it puts distance between you and water droplets from sneezes and coughs that could be carrying COVID-19.
How does social distancing work in a workplace setting?
In an office environment, desks can be separated by two metres. We recommend that workers not face each other. Kitchens should have maximum occupant limitations; lunchrooms can be rearranged to adjust for two-metre social distancing.
Here are some examples of distancing you can practice. Some of this information will already be available/practiced in your workplace.
Example 1: Interaction with other staff and clients
If two individuals stay an arms length away from each other, it is considered a safe distance. Make it a daily practice and remind co-workers to maintain appropriate distance. Let clients know why you are maintaining specific distances.
Example 2: Workstations and common areas
In common areas such as lunchrooms, sit back to back or leave a chair empty between seats. In kitchens, washrooms and meetings rooms, limit the number of people using the space at a time. At workstations, do not face each other; leave a station empty between workers or sit at opposite ends of the worktable.
Example 3: Bedside service for clients.
Social distancing becomes more difficult in workplaces that care for clients in a residence. Certain services cannot be provided without breaking the social distancing recommendations, for example, bedside checks. While performing bedside checks or client care, assessment of clients is ongoing. If you believe the client is becoming symptomatic, request PPE from your manager (gloves, goggles and mask). Appropriate training must also be provided to employees on PPE usage. Anyone using PPE who has not been trained should contact their supervisor.
Look for other ways to maintain social distancing in your workplace and promote them to your co-workers and management.