Protecting workers

This document provides information to help you:

  • understand more about screening for COVID‑19 at your workplace
  • make decisions about the use of rapid antigen screening in your workplace

This is not intended to provide information on the logistical aspects of implementing workplace rapid antigen screening.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), employers must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of workers. This includes protecting workers from hazards posed by infectious diseases like COVID‑19.

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 COVID‑19.

Read the guide on developing a COVID‑19 workplace safety plan to:

  • help you understand the risks related to COVID‑19 in your workplace
  • develop control measures
  • identify concrete actions you will take to make your workplace safer

All requirements set out in the COVID‑19 Guidance: Considerations for Rapid Antigen Point-of-Care Screening, or updated guidance as it becomes available, must be followed when using rapid antigen testing as part of workplace screening.

Screening to help reduce transmission

As an employer, you should continue to use a variety of measures to control potential exposure to COVID‑19 in your workplace. These may include:

  • reducing in-person interactions as much as possible, for example, having all workers who are able to - work from home
  • using control measures such as masking to decrease the risk of exposure in the workplace

Because screening helps keep infected workers and others from entering the workplace, it can help to reduce possible transmission at work. Screening cannot rule out the possibility that a person is infectious with COVID‑19.

Make sure all workers know:

  • to stay home if they have symptoms that are new or unexplained (for example, not caused by an existing condition)
  • how they can access job and financial supports that are available to them

Know the symptoms to look forand plan for how you will screen workers and others who enter your workplace.

Types of screening

Question-based screening

This type of screening involves questions about symptoms and exposures. The answers are used to determine if a person is more likely to be infected.

A person has passed question-based screening if they have none of the symptoms or exposures asked about in the screening tool.

Question-based screening may be done in-person or remotely. Some ways of screening include:

  • telephone
  • web tool or app
  • email
  • paper-based
  • post signs with clear instructions at all entrances that tell people how to screen themselves

Rapid antigen screening

This screening method involves collection of a sample from an individual that is analysed to see if it contains proteins from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

A person has passed rapid antigen screening if they get a negative result on the rapid antigen test. Individuals with a positive result obtained through a rapid antigen screening do not require a PCR test to confirm the result.

If you use rapid antigen screening at your workplace, you must:

  • follow the Ministry of Health requirements
  • only use rapid antigen screening as the second step in your screening process, after the person has passed question-based screening

Rapid antigen screening may be used for anyone who is fully vaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

Individuals who have previously been diagnosed with, and cleared of, COVID‑19 infection may resume rapid antigen screening 30 days after their COVID‑19 infection (that is, 30 days after the date of their initial positive result).

Worker self-monitoring

Encourage workers to monitor their own symptoms at all times, including while at work. You should:

  • ensure workers know what to do if they start to experience symptoms at work
  • let workers know where to find the online COVID‑19 self-assessment tool
  • ask workers to use the self-assessment tool at home if they have any symptoms and to follow the instructions
  • make sure workers know who their workplace contact is and how to get in touch with them in case the self-assessment, public health or their health care provider tells the worker to self-isolate

Screening results and next steps

Whether your screening process is a single step (question-based only) or has two steps (question-based followed by rapid antigen test), the following actions apply.

If a worker or non-worker has none of the symptoms or exposures or gets a negative result on a rapid antigen test, if used, they generally:

  • may enter the workplace at that time
  • should continue to follow any public health and workplace control measures such as wearing a mask where required
  • should continue to self-monitor for new symptoms
  • should follow their workplace’s reporting procedure, if they are a worker and develop symptoms during their shift

If a worker or non-worker has one or more of the symptoms or exposures asked about in the screening tool, or gets a positive result on the rapid antigen test, if used, they generally:

  • may not enter the workplace at that time
  • should self-isolate immediately
  • may seek medical advice by contacting their health care provider or Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000)
  • must follow any directions they are given by public health officials

Employers should only allow workers to enter the workplace if they have passed all parts of the screening being used.

If available, provide information to workers about a potential exposure and where it took place. Don’t give out information that will identify the infectious person.

Having a system in place to help keep track of which people had close interactions with an affected worker can help you identify who may have been exposed if someone in your workplace develops symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19.

Other considerations for rapid antigen screening

Employers must make sure that all requirements described in the COVID‑19 Guidance: Considerations for Antigen Point-of-Care Testing, or updated guidance as it becomes available, are being followed when using rapid antigen testing as part of workplace screening.

Employers using rapid antigen screening should develop a policy related to COVID‑19 testing. This should be based on independent legal advice, which may include recommendations on issues of:

  • human rights and accessibility
  • labour and employment law
  • privacy
  • health care consent
  • occupational health and safety

The OHSA and the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and their respective regulations do not address mandatory testing of workers by employers. There may be other statutes and considerations that apply to a mandatory testing policy in workplaces.

This document does not replace the OHSA or the ESA and their regulations or any other legal requirements and should not be used as or considered legal advice. Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development inspectors and officers apply the law based on the facts in the workplace.