COVID-19 prevention policy page

Being prepared

We can all play an active role in staying healthy and preventing the spread of COVID-19 by taking care of ourselves and monitoring our health.

Hand washing with soap and water is the best defense against common infectious diseases. Scent-free hand sanitizers should be available in the workplace when soap and water are not readily available.

We encourage you to self-assess for symptoms of COVID-19 through Health Canada’s online self-assessment tool and follow the advice provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

If you have concerns about your health and safety in the workplace, you should discuss them with your manager.

Government of Canada facilities

Health Canada’s Public Service Occupational Health Program (PSOHP) have provided specific advice that applies to the workplace. Advice includes:

  • increasing awareness about COVID-19
  • evaluating the worksite for areas where people have frequent contact with each other and share objects
  • increasing the distance between desks and workstations or spreading employees in office areas
  • adding signage for visitors and denying access to people with symptoms
  • ensuring frequent cleaning, providing access to handwashing areas and placing hand-sanitizing dispensers in prominent locations

Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) is working with service providers and custodial teams to ensure service providers can perform the necessary cleaning and disinfection protocols as necessary. For information on PSPC efforts to support Canada’s response to COVID-19, which includes federal building maintenance information, visit the guidebook for departments on easing of restrictions.

Front-line service delivery

If you are a federal employee who gives front-line service delivery, please consult Health Canada’s latest Occupational Health Advisory. Specific guidance is also available if you work with travelers, or other frontline employees. Please consult the latest advisories and messages to employees.

As Service Canada Centres gradually reopen across the country, in-person services will be limited. You should continue to use online services whenever possible, and if you need extra help please use the eServiceCanada portal. A Service Canada officer will contact you within two business days. For the latest and most up-to-date information, visit Service Canada.

Guidance for federal worksites that offer non-health care client services in person in Canada includes passive and active screening protocols.

Passive screening

Consider placing signage at the entrance of your client service area. The signage should request that clients self-identify if they:

  • have symptoms of fever, cough or difficulty breathing
  • have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days
  • have been instructed by local public health authorities to self-isolate due to travel or contact history

If they answer “yes” to any of these conditions, the signage should instruct them to:

  • return home (avoiding public transportation)
  • follow local public health advice
  • contact the department for guidance on how to obtain the required service (for example, online, by phone

Active screening

In addition to the passive screening, consider asking clients directly the same questions. If they answer “yes” to one of these three questions, ask them to:

  • return home (avoiding public transportation)
  • follow local public health advice
  • contact the department for guidance on how to obtain the required service, including alternate delivery models (online, by phone)

If you think a client is ill

If you think a client is ill, inform your supervisor/manager, who will decide on the best way to provide the service to the client, such as via Internet, telephone, mail or increased physical (social) distancing and follow these guidelines:

  • when a client is exhibiting symptoms of fever or cough or is having difficulty breathing, they should be asked to return home and contact local public health authorities
  • until the client exits the worksite, they should be asked to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue, move away from others and perform hand hygiene as soon as possible
  • employees should try to maintain a distance of two metres from an ill client
  • employees should practise regular hand hygiene

Health authorities will continue to provide advice on appropriate measures to protect the health of employees and to stop the spread of the virus.

Personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE), such as surgical-type masks and medical type gloves, should be used on the basis of risk exposure and in compliance with occupational health and safety guidance for COVID-19.

Non-medical masks (NMM) and/or face coverings are not considered personal protective equipment because they do not meet the requirements under the Canada Labour Code.

PPE guidance has been developed for specific worksites (for example, points of entry and missions abroad). Guidance regarding PPE is developed by the Public Service Occupational Health Program (PSOHP) as required in collaboration with departmental occupational health and safety teams.

The latest health advice points to some PPE considerations for organizations:

  • the rates of infection and transmission in the community may vary from location to location
  • organizations should carefully consider the occupational requirements of their workers and their specific workplace configuration—for example, there could be instances where an employee’s face covering could become lodged in a piece of equipment
  • inclusion and accessibility issues, such as allowing lip reading and interference with cultural or religious headdresses could arise

Managers are encouraged to engage their departmental occupational health and safety team with any questions regarding PPE and review  the occupational health advice prepared by Health Canada, when considering appropriate steps to include to ensure employees’ health and safety.

Organizations will need to update and review hazard prevention programs based on the latest risk-mitigation advice and work with their occupational health and safety committee to review procedures and programs as necessary.

Non-medical masks and/or face coverings

When all other measures are exhausted, impractical or not feasible, NMMs and/or face coverings are an additional public health measure that can be used to protect others because they contain our own respiratory droplets—they do not protect the wearer. They are to be worn for short periods of time when physical distancing is not possible or is unpredictable.  

  • NMMs and/or face coverings may not be suitable for all types of occupations
  • good hygiene practices (hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette) and physical distancing are the most important measures we can take to protect our health and the health of others
  • some employees may want to wear an NMM and/or face covering even if it is not recommended because not wearing one could pose a health and safety risk. Organizations will need to consider an approach for these situations
  • recognizing the challenges in maintaining a two-metre distance at all times, organizations will provide NMMs and/or face coverings to employees and instructions with regard to the care, use and disposal of NMM and/or face coverings