March 13, 2020
These guidelines have been developed to address three different perspectives: providing support and guidance to employees who may fall ill or who have questions about their own risk; providing guidelines for volunteers; and in recognition of the fact that HealthPartners supports organizations that support Canadians with chronic disease and major illness, who may find themselves at increased risk from infectious diseases.
These guidelines are meant to provide advice and direction to HealthPartners in the event of a contagious disease epidemic/pandemic. It should be noted that employers are legally liable for both employees and nonemployees infected in the workplace. Both employers and workers must take reasonable care to protect the health and safety of the worker and other workers.
DIRECTIONS IF AN EMPLOYEE IS ILL
As with any illness, staff have the responsibility to themselves and their colleagues to stay away from the workplace when they are contagious. HealthPartners provides adequate sick leave if employees are unable to work; if employees are able to work but are self-isolating, our systems and technologies are established such that a great majority of the work can be accomplished outside of the workplace. In cases of self-isolation, staff are required to utilize these means.
When there is an outbreak of a contagious disease, we encourage departments to work out a schedule limiting interaction between departmental staff; that is, we encourage departments to try to not all be in the office on the same day. This will lower the risk of spreading the disease to other members of the immediate team and will assist in ensuring coverage in the department should a member become ill.
The following steps should be taken by employees who are experiencing any symptoms of an contagious disease:
- Get tested. See your health-care provided to determine if you have a contagious disease
- Self-isolate until such time as you have received results from tests that you are not infected, or the time period suggested by the Medical Officer of Health as an incubation period. A self-quarantine arrangement may be particularly helpful where an employee has returned from affected areas but has not yet experienced any infectious disease symptoms.
- Avoid travelling to high risk areas. If you have travelled to a high-risk area or have been in contact with someone who has, inform your supervisor to discuss remaining away from the workplace.
- If HealthPartners has a reasonable basis to believe an employee may have been exposed to a contagious disease, the employer will request that the employee work from home for a 14-day period or provide medical clearance to return to work. Employees who refuse to stay home when ordered to do so may be prevented from entering the workplace. Likewise, employees or visitors who are symptomatic should be kept separate from staff and helped with arrangements to leave the workplace and obtain medical evaluation while minimizing their public exposure.
- HealthPartners is cognizant that employee personal information, including health information, should be kept confidential. While employers can collect, use and disclose information about an employee’s health, such disclosure must be reasonable in the circumstances and the employer must provide notice of disclosure to the employee.
HOW TO HANDLE INTERACTIONS DURING AN OUTBREAK
While those displaying symptoms should not interact with others, those not displaying symptoms should take the necessary precautions they feel comfortable with during an outbreak.
Employees have the right to refuse work if they believe on reasonable grounds that there is a dangerous condition at the work site or that the work constitutes a danger to their health and safety. If an employee refuses to come to work due to fear of contracting a contagious disease, employers must respond by carrying out an investigation and, if applicable, take action to eliminate the danger in accordance with the OHSA.
If you are scheduled to attend an event with a large number of individuals (this includes travelling):
- You may decide to not attending discussion with your supervisor in order to make alternate arrangements if required. A decision to not attend should be made as far in advance of the event as possible in order to cancel any travel.
- Employees should be especially careful not to travel if they feel unwell, as they might face quarantine on return if they have a fever even without significant risk of an infectious disease.
If you are scheduled to hold an in-person meeting with a large number of individuals:
- You should discuss with the Chair of the meeting whether there is a need to change the meeting to another format such as video-conference, teleconference, etc.
- If you are scheduled to travel to a conference, professional development opportunity or other event, travel plans must be discussed/cleared with your supervisor in order to assess any risks to the individual or the organization.
Like every individual and every organization, we are trying to figure out the implications of this virus, as it seems to be changing rapidly in the space of a week. We don’t know what this means moving forward, for events like planned conferences, and we beg your patience as we work together to determine how to handle the situation.
BEST PRACTICES TO PROTECT EMPLOYEES FROM EXPOSURE IN THE WORKPLACE
Employees and HealthPartners should:
- Stay home if they have respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath) and/or a temperature above 100.4 F.
- Leave work if they develop these symptoms while at the workplace.
- Shield coughs and sneezes with a tissue, elbow, or shoulder (not the bare hands).
- Avoid touching your face.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid shaking hands entirely to reduce the risk of spreading infection.
- Ensure that employees have ready access to washing facilities and that those are kept well stocked with soap and (ideally) paper towels.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizers and sanitizing wipes should be distributed throughout the workplace, and all frequently touched surfaces such as workstations, telephones, keyboards, desks, countertops and doorknobs should be routinely cleaned. Increased cleaning of common areas using standard cleaning agents can also reduce risk of spread of respiratory disease.
- Effective cleaning with detergent and water, followed by rinsing and drying will remove the bulk of germs from environmental surfaces.
- Use of appropriate cleaning tools and use of protective personal equipment (gloves, masks) is important and should be easily accessible to clean up spills immediately, to prevent aerosol spread of viruses and bacteria.
- Crockery and cutlery in shared kitchen areas should be cleaned with warm water and detergent and dried thoroughly.
- Ensure food such as crisps and sandwiches are not left open for communal sharing unless individually wrapped.