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COVID-19 screening now legally required for Ontario workplaces
September 29, 2020
Ontario’s O Reg 364/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 3 now requires all businesses and organizations to conduct screening as recommended by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health (“CMOH”). All workers and visitors attending at a work environment must be screened in accordance with the COVID-19 Screening Tool for Workplaces (“CMOH Screening Tool”) issued by the Ministry of Health. The change was made on September 25, 2020 and has been in effect since Saturday, September 26, 2020.
The screening requirement applies to all businesses and organizations in Ontario. However, the CMOH Screening Tool may not apply to health care or congregate care settings where existing screening requirements are in place.
CMOH Screening Tool
The CMOH Screening Tool applies to all workers and essential visitors entering the workplace, including any outdoor, or partially outdoor, workplaces. Workers includes employees, students, contractors or volunteers. It does not apply to patrons entering a workplace, emergency services or other first responders entering a workplace for emergency purposes. We note that there are special rules in the education sector and hospitality industry related to screening school attendees and patrons. There is no exemption for these workplaces from the additional CMOH screening requirements.
The CMOH Screening Tool sets out minimum questions that should be used to screen individuals for COVID-19 before they are permitted entry into the workplace, however, the tool allows for business and organizations to adapt the screening procedures based on need and the specific setting.
Anyone who does not pass the screening should be advised not to enter the workplace, to go home and self-isolate and contact their healthcare provider.
In addition to collecting the information required by the COVID-19 Screening Tool, employers must also meet all obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Businesses, organizations and employers should refer to Ontario’s COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan Guide in addition to the new screening requirement.
Implications for Employers
The regulation applies where a worker or essential visitor may enter the work environment or workplace. For many employers, they will control the workplace or work environment where their employees work and will need to conduct the screening. In some cases, the employer does not control the work environment and the screening obligation will be on the business or organization that does.
Ontario employers should immediately check their screening procedures to ensure that it includes the questions from the CMOH Screening Tool. Where employees are expected to attend at the employer’s workplace, employers should ensure that all employees answer the questions before the start of each shift or workday. There are some screening apps available that would permit employers, businesses and organizations to complete the screening process electronically.
A record of the daily screening should be collected and retained. The Regulation does not specify a specific retention period or process for retaining the screening results. In the hospitality sector, patron screening records must be kept for at least thirty days. It is recommended that records be kept for at least this period of time and that the information be kept in a secure confidential location.
 Essential visitors include individuals providing a service in the establishment who are not employees or patrons of the establishment (e.g., delivery, maintenance, contract workers)