Guidelines for Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace: Office Settings

Sector: Office Spaces

These guidelines were developed to protect employers, their employees, and their customers, as well as prevent the spread of COVID-19 in office spaces.

Employer Responsibilities

To learn about employer obligations to protect the health and safety of workers:

Self-Assessment and Screening of Employees and Customers

  • Any person accessing the office – including employees and customers – should be directed to perform a COVID-19 self-assessment before arriving at the office.
  • Assign an employee to perform active screening of any person coming into the office prior to entry. Anyone who answers YES to any of the following questions should be denied entry and advised to put on a mask or face covering, go home immediately and self-isolate:
    • Do you have any COVID-19 symptoms, including the symptoms listed on the EOHU's website? (Note: this site should be consulted on a weekly basis for any updates)
    • Have you travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days?
    • Has someone you are in close contact with tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days?
    • Are you in close contact with a person who is sick with new respiratory symptoms or who recently traveled outside of Canada?
  • Employees, customers, and other persons who are sick or who have any COVID-19 symptoms must be sent home immediately. They should also be tested for COVID-19 (see what to do If You Have Symptoms of COVID-19)
  • Employees who are sick or who have had any COVID-19 symptoms as outlined above shall not be allowed to return to work until 14 days after onset of symptoms or as directed by public health or with written confirmation from a doctor.

Promote and Ensure Measures to Prevent the Spread

  • Provide employees and customers with increased access to a handwashing sink with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer (e.g. by placing hand sanitizer dispensers in easy to see locations).
  • Encourage employees to clean and disinfect their work environments (workstations and shared equipment) and provide the necessary supplies (e.g. sanitizing wipes).
  • Provide training and signage to remind employees and customers to:
    • Wash their hands often with soap and water (or alcohol-based hand sanitizer) for at least 20 seconds each time.
    • Cough or sneeze into the bend of their arm.
    • Avoid high-touch areas, including handrails and push buttons, or ensure they clean their hands and avoid touching their face after.
    • Use masks or face coverings (non-medical masks such as cloth masks) in public areas of the enclosed space and when keeping two metres’ distance from co-workers may be challenging or not possible.
  • If you require that employees use gloves, advise them not to touch their face and head.

Promote and Facilitate Physical Distancing

Limit the Number of Persons on Site

  • Where possible, reduce all physical contact by:
    • Enabling employees to work from home.
    • Meeting and communicating with employees and customers remotely over the computer or telephone (text messaging, video conferencing (Zoom, Facebook, Skype, Google Meet, etc.) and phone calls), rather than in-person interactions.
  • Stagger work hours or workdays to restrict the number of employees on site.
  • Control the number of customers that employees interact with daily:
    • Limit services to by-appointment only.
    • Limit the number of appointments per day and stagger appointment times.
  • Limit the number of employees the customer must interact with.

Entrances and Exits

  • Stagger the number of people (employees and/or customers) entering the premises at the same time by staggering shifts/work hours and appointment times.
  • Limit the number of entry and exit points.
    • Consider using an entrance/exit for employees and one for customers.
    • Designate and clearly mark specific entrances and exits as appropriate, and only permit entrance/exit through these doors.
  • Provide portable hand washing stations (sink with water, soap and paper towel or 60% alcohol hand sanitizer) at the entrance to the premises.
  • Post, at every public entrance to the premises, prominent and clearly visible signage about the mask requirement. A sample sign is available on the EOHU’s website at www.eohu.ca/coronavirus. 

Adequate Spacing and Physical Barriers

  • Establish 2 metre separation between employees (e.g. desks and workstations).
  • Create physical barriers between employees and customers when physical distancing is not possible.
    • Install physical separations between employees (e.g. physical barriers like a plexiglass window or cubicle higher than head-height)
    • Provide plexiglass dividers at reception or any other service that requires an employee to be close to the customer (less than 2 metres away).
  • Hold meetings in outdoor spaces or large spaces.
  • Limit the number of people permitted in a room or given area at any one time:
    • To calculate the maximum number of people at any one time, a good rule of thumb is one person per two metres square (four squared metres) of floor space.
    • Stagger breaks and lunch times to avoid large groups in a room (e.g., kitchen).
    • Post signage at the entrance indicating the maximum number of people that can be permitted at any one time.
      • Once the maximum number of people is reached, one person may enter for every person that leaves.
  • In narrow hallways, stairwells, or aisles, encourage unidirectional travel where possible. Use visual cues like signage or mark arrows on the floor with tape.
  • In waiting areas, offices, and meeting rooms, use floor markings to show distance to be kept apart and change the layout to ensure customers and employees are 2 metres apart.
    • Arrange chairs a minimum of 2 metres apart. Mark seating locations with tape on the floor.
  • Close or restrict access to non-essential common areas.
  • Provide signage to remind employees and customers of the importance of physical distancing:

Implement Environmental Cleaning and Disinfectant Procedures

  • Reduce the number of common surfaces that need to be touched (e.g., prop doors open, no-touch waste containers, no-touch towel dispenser or hand dryer).
  • Restrict access to non-essential shared equipment (e.g., vending machine, coffee maker, water fountains and bottle filling stations).
  • Designate employees (custodial staff) to clean and disinfect surfaces at least twice per day, or when visibly dirty.
    • Focus on high traffic areas, frequently touched surfaces and objects, and shared equipment (e.g. door handles, elevator buttons, light switches, washrooms, countertops, handrails, shared photocopier, computer screens and keyboards)
    • Use appropriate cleaner and disinfectant as per manufacturer’s instructions (consult the list of acceptable disinfectants).

Implement Other Measures

  • Support and encourage employees to take care of their physical and mental health.
  • Improve airflow (fresh air intake/air circulation) with open windows, doors, or fans.
  • Check in regularly with employees using questionnaires/conversation (preferably virtual) to reiterate public health measures and verify whether implemented controls are working.
  • Keep up with public health updates and retrain/revise practices as needed.

Employee Responsibilities

  • Complete a COVID-19 self-assessment before arriving at the office.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water (or alcohol-based hand sanitizer) for at least 20 seconds each time, including after seeing customers in person.
  • If you use gloves, do not to touch your face and head.
  • Cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you have just cleaned your hands.
  • Avoid high-touch areas, including handrails and push buttons, or clean your hands and avoid touching your face after.
  • Use a mask or face covering (non-medical mask such as a cloth mask) in public areas of the enclosed space and when keeping two metres’ distance from co-workers may be challenging or not possible.
  • Wash your clothes as soon as you get home.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect any areas that you are frequently in contact with or are used by other people (e.g., tables, desks, tablets, pens, door handles).
  • Always maintain a physical distance of at least 2 meters from others.
  • Avoid socializing and do not gather in any area.
  • Eliminate contact greetings such as handshakes.
  • Raise any health and safety concerns with your supervisor, joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative.
  • When handling payments and paperwork:
    • When possible, ask customers to complete transactions by e-transfer or online.
    • When handling payments, encourage tapping when paying by card, or clean and sanitize the keypad between customers.
    • Where possible, use technology to send and receive paperwork (e.g., scanning equipment and electronic proof of delivery).
    • Avoid sharing pens. Ask customers to use their own pen when signing or use disinfectant wipes after use.
    • Wash your hands frequently before and after handling payments and paperwork.

Instructions for Customers Entering the Office

  • Complete a COVID-19 self-assessment before arriving at the office.
  • Always maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres from others.
  • Always wear a mask (face covering).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water (or alcohol-based hand sanitizer) for at least 20 seconds each time, before entering the premises, after contact with others, or with surfaces others have touched.
  • If you use gloves, do not to touch your face and head.
  • Cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you have just cleaned your hands.
  • Avoid high-touch areas, including handrails and push buttons, or clean your hands and avoid touching your face after.
  • Avoid socializing and do not gather in any area.
  • Eliminate contact greetings such as handshakes.
  • When handling payments and paperwork:
    • When possible, complete transactions by e-transfer or online.
    • Either use tapping when paying by card or use disinfectant wipes after card use.
    • Where possible, use technology to send and receive paperwork (e.g., scanning equipment and electronic proof of delivery).
    • Avoid sharing pens. Bring your own pen for signing or use disinfectant wipes after use.
    • Wash your hands frequently before and after handling payments and paperwork.

Additional Resources

1.    https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/guidance-documents/risk-informed-decision-making-workplaces-businesses-covid-19-pandemic.html (Health Canada)
2.    https://www.wsps.ca/WSPS/media/Site/Resources/Downloads/covid-19-body-shop-health-and-safety-guidance.pdf?ext=.pdf

Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario