During the (coronavirus) outbreak, we all need to do our part to keep workers, customers and the public safe and healthy so we can stop the spread and prepare to reopen the province, when we are ready.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), employers must take every reasonable precaution to protect the health and safety of workers. This includes protecting workers from hazards posed by infectious diseases.

As part of fulfilling this obligation, you should assess your workplace to determine what you need to do to protect the health and safety of your workers, including how to minimize the risk of transmission of .

Read the guide on developing a workplace safety plan to:

  • help you understand the risks related to in your workplace
  • develop control measures

Below is a set of resources, tips and best practices to help employers and workers prevent the spread of and work together to reopen the province.

Employers and workers in Ontario have certain duties and rights under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.

Employers should also review and follow any provincial requirements under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to ) Act and any local public health orders.

Learn more about:

Best practices

Everyone working in the restaurant and food services sector needs to consider how to prevent the spread of at work, including:

  • cashiers
  • chefs
  • dishwashers
  • administrators
  • drive-thru operators
  • maintenance staff

To help stop the spread of , follow:

  • requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and associated regulations
  • public health direction
  • guidance issued by the Chief Medical Officer of Health or your local public health unit

The first step to control risks in a workplace is to identify them. For , the risks are related to how the virus spreads.

can be spread at the workplace in two main ways:

  • person to person, by people who are in close contact
  • by surfaces or objects, when people touch their face with contaminated hands

The risk of getting is higher if you:

  • spend more time with potentially infected people
  • work in closer proximity to others
  • interact with more people
  • work in more enclosed spaces (working indoors is riskier than working outdoors)

It is possible for to be spread by people who do not have any symptoms. Act as if everyone is infected when setting up controls.

Using masks as a control measure

A mask is a piece of equipment that covers the wearer’s nose, mouth and chin. It is fixed to the face with straps, ties or elastic, either behind the head or with ear loops.

For protection, masks can be used as workplace control measures in two ways:

  • as source control: workers and visitors wear a mask to protect those around them
  • as personal protective equipment (PPE): workers wear a mask (along with eye protection) to protect themselves

Employers must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of workers. You need to assess all relevant factors in your workplace to decide whether you will use masks as source control or if they will be needed as PPE. You will need to assess how effective source control masking and other control measures are at reducing risk.

Not all masks are suitable for both purposes, but a surgical or procedure mask worn as part of PPE can also serve as source control.

You need to consider how the mask will be used to select a type of mask that is suitable for the purpose.

Using masks as source control

All employers should use masks as source control in their workplace, combined with other control measures. The use of source control masks is especially important indoors.

This type of masking is generally appropriate for workers who maintain a two-metre distance from others, such as food service workers providing delivery or take-out services.

The use of source control masks is required by law in most indoor spaces, including restaurants. However, patrons are permitted to remove their masks while eating and drinking.

Using masks and eye protection as PPE

Where PPE is needed in a restaurant setting, it will likely consist of a surgical/procedure mask  (or equal or greater protection) and eye protection (such as face shield or goggles). This is consistent with public health direction that droplet precautions be taken where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

When workers perform tasks that require them to work within two metres of another person without a barrier (for example, plexiglass, partition, wall), PPE will be needed.

It is also important to continue to take steps to maintain physical distance such as:

  • having patrons collect their meals from carts after the server has withdrawn
  • bussing tables after patrons have departed

Protecting yourself and your co-workers

Coronaviruses are spread through close contact with others. Here are some helpful tips to help prevent the spread of germs at home or in the workplace:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Sanitize often, between each transaction if possible.
  • Wash or sanitize hands after making or receiving deliveries.
  • Sneeze and cough into your sleeve.
  • If you use a tissue, discard immediately and wash your hands afterward.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Avoid high-touch areas, where possible, or ensure you clean your hands afterwards.
  • Where possible, wear gloves when interacting with high-touch areas. Do not touch your face with gloved hands. Take care when removing gloves. Ensure you wash your hands after removing them.
  • Wash your clothes as soon as you get home.
  • If you are ill: notify your supervisor immediately, complete the self-assessment and follow the instructions.

Physical distancing (two metres)

As advised by the Chief Medical Officer and public health officials physical distancing is required to control the spread of (coronavirus).

Here are some tips employers can use to help ensure physical distancing in the workplace:

  • Minimize contact with customers.
  • Maintain a safe distance while handling goods and taking payment, minimize or eliminate handling of cash and eliminate at-the-door payment methods.
  • Assign staff to ensure customers are maintaining safe physical distances in congested areas like entrances/exits and check-outs.
  • Add floor markings and barriers to manage traffic flow and physical distancing.
  • Do not accept re-usable bags or containers that are to be handled by your staff.
  • Install barriers between cashiers and customers; this can include plexiglass or markings on the floor to ensure at least two metres between customer and cashier.
  • Stagger start times, shifts, breaks, and lunch times.
  • Restrict the number of people on-site and where they are assigned to work.
  • Control site movement (by limiting the potential for workers to gather).
  • Limit the number of people working in one space at the same time.
  • Minimize the number of people using each piece of equipment in instances where sharing equipment cannot be avoided.
  • Hold meetings in an outside or large space.
  • Limit unnecessary on-site interaction between workers, and with outside service providers.

Workplace sanitation

Coronaviruses are spread person to person through close contact. While employers always have an obligation to maintain clean worksites, that obligation is under sharper focus due to .

Here are some tips for employers to use:

  • Provide ways to properly clean hands, by providing access to soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Provide cashiers, drive-through operators, delivery staff and other customer-facing staff with hand sanitizer for their use only.
  • Have all employees and visitors wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before entering the workplace and after contact with surfaces others have touched.
  • Include handwashing before breaks and at shift changes.
  • Provide a safe place for customers to dispose of used sanitizing wipes and personal protective equipment.
  • Clean washroom facilities.
  • Sanitize commonly-touched surfaces or areas such as entrances, counters, washrooms and kitchens.
  • Sanitize shared equipment (where sharing of equipment cannot be avoided).
  • Post hygiene instructions in English or French and the majority workplace language so everyone can understand how to do their part.
  • Introduce more fresh air by increasing the ventilation system’s air intake or opening doors and windows. Avoid central recirculation where possible.

Adjust onsite and production schedules

Lowering staff levels on job sites may be required to maintain appropriate physical distancing. Employers should look at how they can adjust their production schedules to support physical distancing, where possible.

Here are some tips for employers to follow:

  • Limit the number of workers to critical number by staggering work schedules.
  • Consider job rotation.
  • Reschedule any unnecessary visits to the workplace by supply chain partners, vendors or others who don’t need to be there now.
  • Ensure sanitation of workspaces.
  • Carry out planning to facilitate appropriate physical distancing between workers.
  • Establish rules for any work that requires workers within two metres of each other. This could include full personal protective equipment.

Manage a potential case of, or suspected exposure to, at the workplace

The guide to developing your workplace safety plan can help you plan for what you will do if there is a case of at your workplace or a suspected exposure to (see Question 4 in the guide).

If a worker calls in sick, informs you of symptoms or informs you they had close contact with someone with symptoms, or if anyone shows symptoms in the workplace they should be excluded from the workplace.

Your local public health unit is responsible for identifying close contacts and determining when a workplace outbreak has occurred. You and your workers must follow any direction provided by local public health officials, including self-isolation if required. If you have questions about a case in the workplace or about public health direction, contact your local public health unit.

If a worker tests positive for , the local public health unit may ask you to provide information such as where and when the worker was present and information about any other worker who may have been exposed. Consider setting up a system to track workers to be able to provide information to the public health units if needed.

You must let workers know if they may have been exposed in the workplace. You should give all workers information about the date and time of the potential exposure and where it took place. Don’t give out any information that might identify the infectious person.

Provide notice

If you are advised that one of your workers has tested positive for due to exposure at the workplace, or that a claim has been filed with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), you must give notice in writing within four days to:

Additionally, you must report any occupationally acquired illnesses to the WSIB within three days of receiving notification of the illness.

You do not need to determine where a case was acquired. If it’s reported to you as an occupational illness, you must report the case.

Share information

It is important that all parties in a workplace communicate their roles and responsibilities. Employers must ensure health and safety policies are updated and posted for all workers to see. Using industry resources, including this one and those produced by the Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS), will improve on-site understanding.

Post your policies

All employers must provide information, instruction and supervision to protect the health or safety of workers and should, in complying with this duty, post and communicate policies to workers.

These policies should cover how the workplace will operate, including, but not limited to:

  • the sanitization of the workplace
  • how workers report illnesses
  • how to ensure physical distancing
  • how work will be scheduled
  • screening measures


resources for the restaurants and food services sector

Guidance provided by the Ministry of Health:

Guidance provided by Workplace Safety and Prevention Services:

government updates

Stay updated with daily government updates:

Ontario government and agency-issued resources about

The Ontario government is providing guidance and resources to help businesses and employers operate more safely and stop the spread.

Learn how to develop your workplace safety plan.

The response framework: keeping Ontario safe and open webpage has resources and information to help businesses and employers determine what their obligations are under the Reopening Ontario Act.

The Workplace PPE Supplier Directory can assist in finding supplies and equipment.

The Ontario Ministry of Health is providing consistent updates on the provincial government’s response to the outbreak, including:

  • status of cases in Ontario
  • current affected areas
  • symptoms and treatments
  • how to protect yourself and self-isolate
  • updated Ontario news on the virus

Public Health Ontario is providing up-to-date resources on , including:

  • links to evolving public health guidelines, position statements and situational updates
  • synopsis of key articles updating on the latest findings related to the virus
  • recommendations for use of personal protective equipment
  • information on infection prevention and control
  • testing information
  • other public resources

Other resources

Health Canada outlines the actions being taken by the Government of Canada to limit spread of the virus, as well as what is happening in provinces and communities across the country. It also maintains a live update of the number of cases by province.

The World Health Organization is updating the latest guidance and information related to the global outbreak and spread beyond Canadian borders.

It also provides the most up-to-date information on:

  • current research and development around the virus
  • a situation “dashboard”
  • emergency preparedness measures
  • live media updates on the spread of the virus

This resource does not replace the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations, and should not be used as or considered legal advice. Health and safety inspectors apply the law based on the facts in the workplace.

Updated: July 05, 2021
Published: April 26, 2020