Conducting unit entries during COVID-19
When emergency orders were enacted in Ontario to help stop the spread of COVID-19, housing providers limited their operations to comply with regulations. Most housing providers immediately restricted unit entries to urgent maintenance or repair work only, with strict social distancing protocols in place. As the need for social distancing wears on, it may no longer be feasible to put off less urgent maintenance work, fire inspections, and general unit inspections, all of which are necessary to keep residents safe and buildings in working order.
So how can housing providers conduct repairs and inspections while protecting the health of residents, staff, and contractors?
Create a plan for reopening your operations
ONPHA’s COVID-19 Planning Checklist suggests that you appoint a Pandemic Response Coordinator or Team to help you manage operations during a pandemic. This person/team will be critical in ensuring that your health and safety measures are adequate and adaptable as you move towards near-normal operations.
ONPHA’s A Guide to Reopening Your Workplace outlines six steps for a safe reopening that will be important for establishing new procedures:
- Identify risks
- Implement measures to reduce the risk of transmission
- Develop and update policies
- Establish communications plans and training protocol
- Monitor your workplace and facilitate staff input
- Assess and address risks from resuming operations
Following these steps will help your organization with the process of reopening and help you formulate policies and procedures for performing routine in-unit maintenance tasks and inspections safely.
Learn from your peers
Your fellow housing providers are facing and adapting to the same kinds of challenges that you are. You can learn a great deal from the policies and practices your peers are implementing.
Victoria Park Community Homes has created an Entry of Units Process document to guide staff and contractors through health and safety protocols that must be undertaken before entering a unit. Here’s a brief overview of their procedures.
Screening questions (prior to entry)
Project managers or supervisors are required to ask a series of questions to all workers who are scheduled to enter units each day. Contractors or staff who answer yes to any of the questions will not be permitted to enter units. Staff must ask the same questions to residents before allowing workers to enter their unit. If the resident answers yes to any of the questions, the work will be rescheduled. Work may proceed if all parties answer ‘no’ to the following questions:
- Have you, or anyone in your household, experienced the following symptoms in the past 14 days: fever, cough, difficulty breathing, muscle aches, fatigue, headache, sore throat, runny nose?
- Have you or anyone in your household tested positive, been tested and are awaiting results, or have been diagnosed with COVID-19?
All staff contractors who enter a unit must be outfitted with personal protective equipment (PPE) before entry that must be worn at all times while inside the unit. The required PPE includes:
- Masks that cover the mouth and nose
- Eye protection – safety glass or face shields
- Freshly cleaned clothing
- Boot covers or freshly cleaned footwear
Workers must also have access to handwashing stations and/or hand sanitizer and disinfectant for use on surfaces.
In-unit procedures/unit prep
Practices for those entering units include:
- Interacting at a distance of 2 meters or more, where possible
- Avoiding sharing tools and/or materials where possible
Sanitization and personal hygiene
- Washing or sanitizing hands immediately upon entering and exiting a unit and multiple times throughout the day
- Sanitizing tools and personal devices upon entering and exiting a unit
- Disinfecting high touch surfaces upon entering and exiting the unit and through the duration of the work
- Taking time with the work to limit mistakes and the need to re-enter the unit
- Bringing all tools, PPE, sanitizer, etc. at the start of the day
Download Victoria Park Community Homes’ Unit Entry Policy for more information and forms and templates you can adapt for use in your organization.
We’re all learning as we move towards our ‘new normal’. Visit ONPHA’s COVID-19 Resource Hub to get tools and templates from your fellow community housing providers to help your organization adapt to the challenges of operating during a pandemic.
Have questions about unit entries? Want to share your best practices? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re always happy to hear from you, and to help!