May 7, 2021

The Ministry of Health recently provided new information on the risk of transmission of COVID-19 variants of concern through the eyes. In response, the Ministry of Labour (MOL), through the risk-assessment requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, has revised the jobsite guidance for mask wearing and eye protection with the updates below. This clarification was obtained at the urging of the OHBA and was confirmed today:

  • Working within two metres of others (indoors and outdoors) now requires eye protection AND an appropriate mask AT ALL TIMES.
  • The selection of masks, either PPE or source control masking, must be based on the project/workplace risk assessment. This may require moving from a cloth mask/face covering to a surgical or procedure mask, but not necessarily an N95 unless required by the construction activity. Employers and workers need to select the right mask under the circumstances where people are working within two metres of each other.
  • Eye protection—including goggles, safety glasses or prescription glasses with side shields that are tight fitting— should also be selected based on the risk assessment. For example, if eye protection is required to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 but is also required by the construction activity, such as demolition activity, then eye protection would need to satisfy both requirements.

Members should ensure these new protocols are known and implemented on jobsites. If members receive an MOL Order (warning) for non-compliance related to this updated guidance, they should review the IHSA website and guidance document for more direction.

MOL Summons (tickets) for non-compliance can be issued under the Duties of an Employer Section 25.2.H of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1990. This means that at some point an MOL warning can become a ticket and a fine.

Why is it important to update your PPE requirements? To reduce the risk of transmission and possible local public health orders to self-isolate for 14 days.

If a positive COVID case is reported at your jobsite, the local public health unit will investigate and determine the exposure risk the COVID-positive individual had in relation to other workers on the site. Updating your PPE requirements to the new guidance on eye protection and masking could support the local public health unit in determining that other workers in contact with the positive COVID contact are not at risk of transmission, and do not need to isolate for 14 days.

If, on the other hand, the local public health unit determines that the lack of eye protection and proper masking related to close contact interaction increases the risk of transmission to other workers, they may determine that those workers must isolate for 14 days.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact BILD.