Workers Compensation Board of Prince Edward Island

COVID-19 Health and Safety Information for Employers

The following provides workplace health and safety information for Island employers during COVID-19. Please check here frequently for updated information.

The WCB PEI urges all employers to follow the recommendations of the PEI Chief Public Health Office during the COVID-19 crisis.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the restrictions necessary to reduce risk, workplaces will need to adjust. As the new normal is established in workplaces, there is an added layer of health and safety measures (physical distancing, screening, handwashing, etc.) required to ensure the safety of workers, customers, and visitors.

WCB encourages all workplaces to think outside the traditional work environment and consider alternate working arrangements, such as working remotely, flexible hours, staggered start times, and the use of virtual meetings rather than in-person where possible.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms may include:

  • new or worsening cough
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • fever/chills
  • sore throat
  • runny nose, sneezing, congestion
  • headache
  • muscle/joint/body aches
  • felling unwell/unusual tiredness
  • acute loss of sense of smell or taste

Other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea have been reported, but typically along with other COVID-19 symptoms, and may be seen more often in children.

What should I do if I develop symptoms?

  • stay home (isolate) to avoid spreading it to others
  • if you live with others, stay in a separate room or keep a 2-metre distance
  • call your family physician or nurse practitioner or go to a drop-in clinic to be tested

As an employer, what are my occupational health and safety (OHS) responsibilities related to COVID-19?

The OHS Act sets out the obligation for employers to take every reasonable precaution to protect the occupational health and safety of persons at or near the workplace at all times. This means that employers must assess the risks of the workplace and take appropriate action to either eliminate or, if that is not possible, minimize those risks.

If it is necessary for workers to come to work, it is essential that your workers and supervisors understand their responsibilities to minimize exposure to COVID-19. You are also responsible for ensuring your entire team understands and complies with the safety measures in place. Training, communication, and documentation are critical to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

Stay Informed

Be attentive to changes. Watch and listen to reliable information outlets, such as the PEI Chief Public Health Office, Government of PEI, Public Health Agency of Canada and WCB PEI. Comply with mandatory orders issued by Public Safety and any applicable directives and guidelines from Public Health.

Create a COVID-19 Operational Plan

You must have a documented plan (COVID-19 Operational Plan Template) that specifically addresses COVID-19. Every employer is required to have a COVID-19 safety plan that assesses the risk of exposure at their workplace and implements measures to keep their workers safe. This requirement applies to all workplaces, whether you have continued to operate during the pandemic or are planning your re-opening. While your documented plan doesn’t need to be approved by WCB PEI or Public Health, it needs to be available at any time. You could be asked for it by either regulatory body.

Involve Your Staff

Consult with staff, your joint health and safety committee or employee health and safety representative, as appropriate. Your workers can help with many aspects of communication, support, and more.

Communicate

Inform your supervisors and workers of their rights and responsibilities to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Regularly communicate the importance of protecting themselves and others from COVID-19, changes to processes and procedures, and why these changes are required.

Prepare for an Exposure

If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, Public Health will provide them with clear direction, including steps they must take. Public Health may also contact the employer and other employees to provide direction, if necessary.

Understanding the Risk in Your Workplace

Understanding the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission in your workplace is an essential first step in minimizing the risk of exposure. Jobs within a workplace vary, and so too will the risks of exposure. Performing an overall assessment of the workplace is important. Understanding the risks will help you determine appropriate precautionary measures.

Zero risk is not possible in any setting and this isn’t the objective. The expectation is that employers reduce risk as much as possible within their workplace. This may mean relying on a combination of controls that improve safety while allowing your business to continue operations.

SEE COVID-19 EMPLOYER TOOLKIT FOR ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Are masks mandatory?

Effective July 9th, it is no longer mandatory for non-medical masks to be worn in public, indoor spaces in PEI. Masking is still encouraged and PEI residents and visitors should consider their own health, vaccination status and the vaccination status of others around them, and their exposure to the public when deciding to wear a mask in indoor public spaces.

Masks are recommended in indoor public settings for all people 12 and older who are not yet fully vaccinated.

  • Masks are optional for children aged 2 to 12.
  • Children under 2 (and other individuals not able to remove masks on their own) should not wear masks.
  • Some people may choose to continue to wear a mask after they're fully vaccinated especially in certain situations (e.g., if they are at risk of severe disease or outcomes, when they don't know the vaccine status of others, ability to maintain physical distancing).
  • Those who serve the public (e.g., restaurant servers, retail and grocery store staff, hair stylists and barbers) should continue to wear a mask, given they are not able to determine the vaccine status of their patrons and customers.
  • Service providers, organizations and businesses do not need to request proof of vaccine from patrons who are not wearing a mask. Businesses and organizations may choose to follow their own policies and guidelines that are more strict than the provincial guidance.
  • Those who are immunocompromised should also continue to wear a mask in indoor public spaces.
  • Health care facilities and providers should continue with their masking policies until we have 80% of eligible PEI residents fully vaccinated. For example, for now there will be no changes in the mask requirements for staff, visitors and partners in care in long term care facilities.
  • All Health PEI clinic services (hospitals, clinics, testing centres, vaccination clinics) will continue to require staff, patients and visitors to wear masks until 80% of eligible Islanders are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • There are no changes in the mask requirements for staff, visitors and partners in care in long term care facilities at this time.

Wearing a mask in the community is not a substitute for physical distancing and hand washing. It is an additional measure to protect you and those around you, even if you don’t have symptoms.

When should workers stay home from work?

Workers experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should not report to work or, if at work, go home immediately. Employers should ensure that the following workers do not come to work:

  • Workers who are ill or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, whether or not the illness has been confirmed as COVID-19.
  • Workers who are required to self-isolate due to recent out of province travel.
  • Workers who have had close contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19 or someone with symptoms who has recently returned to PEI.
  • Any worker who is required to self-isolate as recommended by the Chief Public Health Office.

Can a worker refuse work due to a COVID-19 concern?

When addressing a work refusal related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to recognize that every refusal is assessed based on circumstances specific to the worker and their workplace. A worker can refuse work if a reasonable assessment of the risk suggests there is an immediate or imminent threat to their safety. A pandemic alone is not enough reason to refuse work. Further information on Refusal to Work can be found here.

I am unable to obtain certification training for my workers, what are my options?

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, OHS Service Providers have been hindered in their efforts to provide training and assigning certification based on a demonstration of competency. Occupational Health and Safety is reminding employers that they have a legal requirement to ensure all workers are competent in performing their work tasks safely.

A competent worker has the knowledge, training, and experience to do the assigned work in a manner that will ensure the health and safety of persons at or near the workplace. A competent worker is aware of the potential or actual danger, and is able to mitigate the risk of harm by following established safety practices.

To ensure competency,

  • Provide the worker with the necessary training to work safely.
    • Review safe work procedures and provide an overview of safety controls, including any personal protective equipment (PPE) that is required.
    • Review education resources from past training provided by OHS Service Providers.
    • Document and maintain records of all safety training activity. List the training material that was used or referenced during the training.
  • Demonstrate how to safely perform job tasks to the worker.
    • To confirm understanding, require the worker to demonstrate performing the task safely.
  • Supervise and monitor the worker to ensure safe standards are maintained while performing job tasks.
    • Assign a competent worker (“buddy system”), who is familiar with doing the job safely and efficiently to act as a mentor.
    • Address safety issues immediately and hold workers accountable for unsafe actions.