Regional Risk Tool & Tips

Escalating Advice Based on Your Region’s COVID-19 Infection Experience For

Communicating, Cleaning, Handwashing, Ventilating, Distancing, Screening, and Masking

This page provides a tool to determine your local infection risk and corresponding tips for COVID-19 prevention in non-healthcare workplaces.

  • based on Public Health Ontario published weekday COVID-19 case counts
  • a rolling 14-day COVID-19 average of cases in each Public Health region in Ontario
  • regional infection risk levels are classified into 5 categories (coloured bands)
  • escalating set of tips, based on risk, to protect your workplace from COVID-19
  • plus daily summary Regional Risk Table At A Glance

 

Ontario COVID-19 Regional Risk Tool:

Risk Legend

Minimal risk – low to absent community transmission

Controlled risk – some sporadic community activity – controlled occasional minor outbreaks

Some community risk – regular sporadic activity – controlled occasional larger outbreaks

Wider community risk – regular activity – periodic outbreaks

High risk – uncontrolled community transmission &/or outbreaks

* Click on grey area if image fails to load

COVID-19 Colour-coded Prevention Tips

How to use this tool:

  1. Find your public health region and click it in the list below the graph (multiple possible, so click all regions that apply to your workforce)
  2. Note the current colour band of your region (i.e. look at the furthest right point of the line, corresponding to today’s date; pick the highest band if multiple areas)
  3. Based on that colour band, go through the 7 Key COVID-19 Tip Topics below to make sure you’re doing what you need to
  4. *Note: when your regional risk is in a higher band, you should also be doing everything suggested for those previous (e.g. if you’re in the yellow band, also do everything blue and green)

Regional Risk Table At A Glance

RankRegion Public Health Unit (PHU)Regional Infection Risk Level*
1Ottawa Public HealthWider community risk
2Peel Public HealthWider community risk
3Toronto Public HealthWider community risk
4York Region Public Health ServicesWider community risk
5Region of Waterloo, Public HealthSome community risk
6Halton Region Health DepartmentSome community risk
7Eastern Ontario Health UnitSome community risk
8Middlesex-London Health UnitSome community risk
9Durham Region Health DepartmentSome community risk
10Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public HealthSome community risk
11Simcoe Muskoka District Health UnitSome community risk
12Hamilton Public Health ServicesSome community risk
13Niagara Region Public Health DepartmentSome community risk
14Windsor-Essex County Health UnitControlled risk
15Brant County Health UnitControlled risk
16Renfrew County and District Health UnitControlled risk
17Peterborough Public HealthControlled risk
18Porcupine Health UnitControlled risk
19Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health UnitMinimal risk
20Northwestern Health UnitMinimal risk
21Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public HealthMinimal risk
22Haldimand-Norfolk Health UnitMinimal risk
23Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health UnitMinimal risk
24Grey Bruce Health UnitMinimal risk
25Sudbury & District Health UnitMinimal risk
26Algoma Public Health UnitMinimal risk
27Southwestern Public HealthMinimal risk
28Lambton Public HealthMinimal risk
29Thunder Bay District Health UnitMinimal risk
30Chatham-Kent Health UnitMinimal risk
31Huron Perth District Health UnitMinimal risk
32North Bay Parry Sound District Health UnitMinimal risk
33Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health UnitMinimal risk
34Timiskaming Health UnitMinimal risk
 

 

COVID-19 Colour-coded Prevention Tips

 

Communicating:

  1. Develop a written, site-specific COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan with worker (Health & Safety Committee or H&S Rep) participation and share it all workers.
  2. Organize a respectful system of notification to supervisors, and/or alerting workers of possible/confirmed cases – be careful to balance confidentiality with the need to know
  3. Share exposure, risk & response information quickly and transparently – building trust
  4. Develop and implement a COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan that is responsive to levels of current regional, community and individual risk – allowing enough flexibility to accommodate for individual special needs and reasonable preferences
  5. Adjust absenteeism policies, paid workplace leave arrangements and workloads to make sure that workers feel able to stay home when they feel unwell
  6. Provide flexibility/support for workers with challenges at home (relational, economic, health-related, etc.)
  7. Encourage questions and dialogue to address potential (or perceived) protective needs
  8. Provide training on the Virus, Risk Assessment & Hierarchy of Controls (HOC) for COVID-19 (Elimination (Distancing), Engineering (Ventilation), Administrative (Cleaning, Screening) & PPE including application to prevention and protection in the context of site, operations and activities
  9. Clearly specify the conditions under which the workplace will scale back occupancy, or be shut down along with plans and procedures for restart

 

Cleaning & Disinfecting:

  1. Establish an escalating protocol for cleaning surfaces – based on regional community risk level (use common cleaning agents more frequently when risk is lower; save the more potent/toxic chemicals for when the risk is higher)
  2. Clean touch points and surfaces on a regular basis
  3. Ensure any workers handling cleaning chemicals are adequately trained (WHMIS hazard specific) to use them appropriately and safely; review and implement SDS recommendations with appropriate ventilation, mixing ratios, labelling, equipment & procedures (e.g. standing times), and PPE)
  4. Use HEPA vacuum, minimize carpeted flooring
  5. Clean & disinfect touch points, shared washrooms & surfaces (including floors depending on occupancy levels & traffic) more frequently and:
    1. Check if chemicals being used are on approved COVID lists e.g. Health Canada
    2. Select less toxic, environmentally friendly options
    3. Check with users and occupants for any adverse reaction (skin/breathing)
  6. Surface swipe sampling can be done but is very expensive, better to address potential contamination with deep cleaning and/or multi-day closure (seek Public Health guidance).

 

Handwashing:

  1. Make handwashing convenient and easy (wash stations)
  2. Encourage cough/sneeze etiquette – provide tissues & garbage cans
  3. Provide accessible paper towels at all wash stations
  4. Provide hand sanitizer at entrances and other gathering or transiting locations (e.g. elevator, waiting room)
  5. Organize breaks and scheduling to allow regular handwashing (especially in dirty environments where hand sanitizer is not sufficient)
  6. Place cough/sneeze etiquette and proper hand hygiene signs at entry points and every wash station
  7. Increase frequency of hand washing as your regional risk level rises
  8. Consider purchase or installation of hands-free trash receptacles, soap and towel dispensers, door openers, and other similar equipment.

 

Ventilating:

  1. Regularly clean HVAC unit and ensure proper maintenance and filter changes
  2. Ensure building and exhaust fans run continuously (e.g. thermostat setting at “ON” instead of “AUTO”) to maximize the amount of fresh air coming into the building
  3. Boost washroom ventilation and air changes
  4. Keep windows open whenever possible where it doesn’t interfere significantly with HVAC’s operation
  5. Review Ventilation Checklist with JHSC/HSR & HVAC technician or expert
  6. Maintain relative humidity between 40-60% where feasible
  7. Adjust the ventilation system to increase outdoor air supply (adjust thermostat to allow for less temperature control during weather extremes) – ensure occupant originating CO2 levels are 600 - 1000 ppm (lower better)
  8. Install minimum of MERV 13 or 14 filters – check to ensure air volume is not significantly compromised
  9. Use one or more portable MERV 13, 14 or HEPA air filters if ventilation can’t be increased, they are suitably sized and adequately maintained
  10. Organize washroom break schedules to allow distancing and leave enough time between users to allow air changes
  11. Consider UV disinfection in air handling units with appropriate safety precautions.
  12. Keep ventilation in building running on low even when unoccupied and/or several days before re-entry

 

Distancing:

  1. Distancing become more important as the regional infection risk increases; have an escalating plan to respond to changes in local community transmission
  2. Rework tasks and processes to minimize contact
  3. Install barriers with appropriate communication & reach safeguards to protect workers in open offices or public facing services
  4. Control traffic to minimize contact (with clear directional & distance signage or floor markings) when risk requires
  5. Stagger occupancy, encourage and actively support working at home where possible, virtual meetings, limit office occupancy to 1 person/office
  6. Minimize and/or carefully manage travel (check regional infection levels along the route and at the destination) – consider the comparative risk associated with different modes of travel (e.g. public transit vs. private vehicle)
  7. Define and organize cohorts/social bubbles at work
  8. Control occupancy (limit #, schedule, control entrance/exit, screen if necessary, etc.)
  9. Shut down workplace except for essential services, and work from home where possible

 

Screening/tracking/risk assessment:

  1. Monitor Community status – use this COVID-19 Regional Risk Tool to know the risk in your community, watch the regional health unit statistics; monitor the local COVID news (e.g. number of cases active, sources of infection, type of transmission, outbreaks)
  2. Encourage use of the Health Canada COVID Alert app
  3. Risk assessment – what is the current likelihood that anyone in the workplace may encounter someone with an infection?
    1. Monitor community rates of infection daily and get to know the local infection patterns: e.g. travel related, low level occasional/sporadic (known case connected), outbreak (transmission confined to facility/location), general community (not connected to known cases)
    2. Review job, activity or contact time exposure risk assessment eg. OHCOW or BOHS tools and plan to reduce or control
    3. Encourage workers to minimize and personally track their network (bubble) of contacts (the higher the number, the more frequent, the higher the risk);
    4. When the local risk warrants, begin to monitor high risk activities/locations with each worker’s social bubble (e.g. commuting, visits to HC or LTC facilities, social events, team sports, spectator, worship or cultural gatherings, travel to/through higher risk areas, etc.)
  4. Implement an escalating (community risk based) self-screening system.
  5. Properly train and support workers to self-screening for symptoms, track contacts, and be alert to home or working conditions (or protocols) that elevate risk
  6. Encourage/support workers with potential COVID contacts, or those who are symptomatic, or sick, to work from home; communicate openly, respectfully and be sure to maintain medical confidentiality
  7. Institute active symptom screening (e.g. entry interview or measurement of visitor/worker temperatures with appropriate medical follow-up for positive screens) – be aware that collecting personal health information requires careful oversight and confidentiality safeguards – these measures should only be implemented if there is a significant risk of community transmission
  8. Consider Implementing COVID-19 testing requirements and protocols for high risk situations (i.e. outbreaks) and/or clearance before a return

 

Face covering/Masking:

  1. Monitor community (and operational or activity) risk levels; organize face covering/mask supply
  2. Ensure workers and visitors know that masking is required if distancing is challenged
  3. Encourage creative options for face coverings to accommodate individual comfort and physical/psychological challenges (provide face shield options)
  4. Practice good hand hygiene when donning, doffing, storing and disposing of masks
  5. Consider universal masking (as source control) where community (or operational) risk level warrants (or is legally required) –(Masking may be optional if/when community infection risk is low, other safe-guards along the hierarchy of controls are in place, and if not otherwise mandated)
  6. Use fit-tested N95 respirators (or better) if aerosol exposure is a significant risk (due to population, operation, activity, time or site parameters); generally only for essential work, since otherwise workplaces likely closed

 

Background & Further Information

SARs-CoV-2 is a highly infectious virus causing mild illness in many, but 20% face serious disease and 3- 5% might die. People are both the potential source (or “hazard”), and the possible victims to be protected, which makes prevention harder. It is an occupational, public, and environmental health problem which further complicates things. This page takes a practical, risk-based approach to prevention, building from regular strategies that are part of a healthy and safe workplace to more targeted (and potentially restrictive) controls. It also recognizes the importance of addressing the virus from a framework of Occupational Health & Safety (where everyone shares responsibility and needs to work together, particularly reinforcing hazard communication, duty of care, and the rights to know and participate) as well as applying the Hierarchy of Controls (Elimination/Substitution ? Engineering ? Administrative ? Personal Protective Equipment). More detailed guidance can be found on OHCOW’s COVID-19 Resources page, as well as the OHCOW Workplace COVID-19 Risk Management (Control Banding) Matrix which aligns US OSHA Workplace/Job Risk Levels with escalating protections and controls.

OHCOW gratefully recognizes the contributions of Kendra Oudyk, Chris Oudyk, and Brian Conroy (from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS)) for their contributions in constructing this webpage.

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