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Posted by on Jul 2020 in All Stories, Features, Member Support, Slider, Uncategorized | 0 comments

A guide for reopening your workplace

A woman wears a mask outside, walking her bicycle down the street.

As businesses across the province enter and prepare to enter Stage 3 of the Province’s reopening plan, there are many questions surrounding how to manage a safe return to work. Critical to the Province’s plan is the need to maintain the social distancing and hygiene measures that we’ve been practicing since the initial emergency measures were enacted on March 17, 2020. 

ONPHA’s new resource, A Guide for Reopening Your Workplace (free to ONPHA Members and the public), is designed to support community housing providers as you cautiously reopen and modify your workspaces and adjust to the “new normal” of your day-to-day operations.  

A Guide for Reopening Your Workplace is based on a document produced by the BC Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA) and the Aboriginal Housing Management Association (AHMA) and adapted to fit the provincial context in Ontario. We thank BCNPHA and AHMA for allowing ONPHA to borrow extensively from their resource to create our Guide for non-profit housing providers in Ontario. 

Six key steps for a successful reopening 

An empty board room

ONPHA’s COVID-19 Planning Checklist emphasizes the need for a Pandemic Coordinator or Pandemic Response Team. If you don’t yet have a Coordinator or Team in place, we suggest you implement one as soon as possible. Your reopening plan must be multi-staged, adaptable, and informed by public health policy and officials. Having a dedicated position or team in place will help your organization work through the six steps for reopening your workplace.

1. Identify Risks 

Close up of a man washing his hands with soap and water

Your first step in your reopening plan must be to identify areas of possible risk for COVID-19 transmission. We suggest that you seek input from varied sources including: 

  • frontline workers 
  • supervisors 
  • your joint health & safety committee (if applicable) 
  • residents 

Continue to assess the workplace for possible transmission risks after you reopen. Potential areas of risk may become more apparent as staff and tenants become more mobile. 

2. Implement measures to reduce the risk of transmission 

While eradicating the spread of the virus may not be possible, practices such as physical distancing and implementing engineering and administrative controls can help you lower the risk.  

3. Develop and update policies 

Non-medical grade face masks

Your policies for keeping staff safe in the workplace must be developed and updated on an ongoing basis. We recommend you consider the following when creating your policies: 

  • Public Health Ontario’s How to Self-Isolate fact sheet 
  • Encouraging staff and tenants to limit visitors and procedures for safe visits 
  • Protocols for what to do if staff start feeling ill while at work, including who should be contacted and how they will travel home 
  • Safety procedures for staff working alone to reduce the risk of transmission 
  • Procedures to ensure staff working from home are doing so safely, including ensuring proper ergonomics 
  • If you provide congregate living, review your services and operations for ways you can reduce the risk of transmission. See the Ministry of Health publication COVID-19 Guidance: Congregate Living for Vulnerable Populations for more information 

4. Establish communication plans and training protocol 

A hand sanitizing station in front of a building entrance

To help ensure anyone entering your buildings including staff, residents, visitors, and outside workers know how to protect themselves and others: 

  • train staff on the measures you have in place to prevent virus transmission and make your policies around staying home while ill and use of sick time clear 
  • post signage stating occupancy limits, social distancing and handwashing procedures, and symptoms of COVID-19 
  • train supervisors on ensuring health and safety procedures are followed 

5. Monitor your workplace and facilitate staff input 

Circumstances may change as you go through your reopening process. Be prepared to adjust or change policies and procedures if you find they’re not working for your organization. Make sure you have a process to encourage and collect staff concerns. 

6. Assess and address risk from resuming operations 

A woman wearing a face mask

There may be challenges to resuming near-normal operations. Consider the following questions: 

  • Are workers taking on new or different responsibilities due to staff turnover or adjusted schedules? Is additional training required? 
  • Will staff need training or time to get back into the swing of things? 
  • Have you changed the way operate? Is there new equipment or procedures for interacting with tenants? 

For more details on the steps listed above, as well as information on conducting a risk assessment, minimizing risk, communications best practices and much more, download A Guide for Reopening Your Workplace today. 

Stay tuned to onpha.on.ca/covid19 for the latest updates on how the pandemic is affecting the community housing sector. 

Questions about reopening your workplace safely? Contact us at member.support@onpha.org. We’re always happy to help! 

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