This post contains information, resources, posters, and links for credible sources of information that employers can use to assist with the understanding and controls for the Coronavirus.
With the news about the Coronavirus, Dunk & Associates wants to remind everyone of the importance of communication and controls when it comes to the health and safety of our workplaces. Employers need to ensure that they are keeping employees informed about precautions and what is going on, to avoid panic and the potential spread of the virus.
That being said, we need to make sure that we are communicating the correct information and being smart about what sources we are using for this information. Don’t just be googling “what to do about the Coronavirus”, make sure to use credible sources like the World Health Organization (WHO), and our local public health departments.
Remember as well that all employees have 3 Rights under Occupational Health and Safety Legislation – The Right to Know, The Right to Participate and the Right to Refuse. Employees need to understand these rights and the employers must ensure they are doing their part to ensure employees understand what this means for their workplaces. In this case if employers do not take all “reasonable” precautions such as supplying appropriate PPE, Handwashing stations, soaps etc., this could lead to a safety related “Work Refusal”
Workers' rights under OHSA include:
The right to participate to be part of the process of identifying and resolving health and safety concerns. This right is expressed mainly in the requirements for Joint Health and Safety Committees and representatives.
The right to know about any hazards to which they may be exposed. The requirements of the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) are an important example.
The right to refuse work that they believe is dangerous and, under certain circumstances, certified Joint Health and Safety Committee members can stop work that is dangerous.
The Act prohibits reprisals being taken against workers who exercise these rights.
As we learn more information about this illness, we expect that the workplace will become a little more vigilant and skeptical with those around us. We all need to remember Don’t Panic and Don’t Discriminate we don’t know who is infected around us, even if they have never been to China. We need to remember its flu season and there is many of us who have the sniffles and are coughing right now, we cover up and use the elbow even when there are no illnesses around the workplace.
We all need to practice the basic good hygiene practices suggested by WHO, CDC and Public Health both at home and in the workplace.
Using universal precautions will keep us all safe and informed.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. They cause a range of illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases — such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). SARS was the coronavirus that originated in China in late 2002, and which eventually killed 44 people in Canada and infected more than 400 before the outbreak in China was declared by the WHO to be "under control" on Apr. 28, 2004.
Where Did This New Coronavirus Come From?
The WHO's China office was first informed of cases of pneumonia with an unknown cause on Dec. 31, 2019. The cases were all detected in Wuhan City.
A new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was identified as the probable cause by Chinese authorities Jan. 7. The WHO reported the evidence was "highly suggestive" that the source was a seafood market that also sells live poultry and meat from exotic animals in Wuhan.
How is it Transmitted?
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they pass from animals to humans. But some, like this newly identified strain, can pass directly between humans.
China confirmed there has been human-to-human transmission of the virus. Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory expert, said two people in Guangdong province in southern China caught the disease from family members.
According to the Centers for Disease Control in the U.S., coronaviruses are most commonly spread by coughing or sneezing; close personal contact, such as shaking hands; or touching an object or surface with the virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose.
What are the Symptoms?
The initial symptoms of 2019-nCoV are mainly fever, with a few reports of people having difficulty breathing, and chest x-rays showing signs of pneumonia in both lungs.
According to the WHO, signs of infection can include respiratory complaints, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
The only way to confirm 2019-nCoV is with a lab test.
Should Canadians be Worried?
The Canadian government is recommending avoiding all travel to the province of Hubei, including the cities of Wuhan, Huanggang and Ezhou, due to the imposition of heavy travel restrictions in order to limit the spread of a novel coronavirus.
Based on information provided by national authorities, WHO’s recommendations on public health measures and surveillance for novel coronaviruses apply.
WHO does not recommend any specific health measures for travellers. In case of symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness either during or after travel, travellers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share travel history with their healthcare provider. Travel guidance has been updated.
WHO advises against the application of any travel or trade restrictions on China based on the information currently available on this event.
Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Advice for the Public
WHO’s standard recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses are as follows, which include hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices:
Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands;
Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough;
If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider;
When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;
The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
Advice to Food and Beverage Sector:
Recommendations for Travellers
Chinese New Year officially begins on January 25, 2020. During this time, the number of travellers to China is expected to significantly increase. Spending time in large crowds or crowded areas can increase your risk of getting sick.
Travellers should take precautions against respiratory and other illnesses while travelling, and seek medical attention if they become sick.
During your trip:
Avoid high-risk areas such as farms, live animal markets, and areas where animals may be slaughtered.
Avoid contact with animals (alive or dead).
Avoid surfaces with animal droppings or secretions on them.
Avoid contact with sick people, especially if they have fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.
Avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products.
Be aware of the local situation and follow local public health advice. In some areas, access to health care may be affected.
Travellers are reminded to follow usual health precautions:
Wash your hands:
Wash your hands often with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds.
Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available. It’s a good idea to always keep some with you when you travel.
Practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette:
Cover your mouth and nose with your arm to reduce the spread of germs.
If you use a tissue, dispose of it as soon as possible and wash your hands afterwards.
Monitor your health:
If you become sick when you are travelling or after you return, avoid contact with others except to see a health care professional. Tell them:
where you have been travelling or living;
if you have had direct contact with animals (for example: visited a live animal market) or close contact with a sick person.
If you feel sick during your flight to Canada or upon arrival, inform the flight attendant or a Canadian border services officer.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent 2019-nCoV infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses. CDC does have specific guidance for travellers.
Resources, Links & Posters
CDC Main site:
Government of Canada:
Government of Ontario:
World Health Organization (WHO) Posters:
Centre of Disease Control & Prevention:
Public Health of Ontario:
Public Health Contact Information
Public Health Canada
Toll Free: 1-866-280-5020
Alberta Health Services
Phone: 780-342-2000 Toll free: 1-888-342-2471
British Columbia Public Health
Manitoba Public Health
Toll Free: 1-888-315-9257
New Brunswick – Public Health Agency Atlantic Region
Newfoundland – Public Health Agency Atlantic Region
Toll Free: 1-800-661-0408 ext. 8391
Nova Scotia – Public Health Agency Atlantic Region
Toll Free: 1-800-661-0408 ext. 8391
Ontario Public Health
Toll Free: 1-877-543-8931
Prince Edward Island – Public Health Agency Atlantic Region
Quebec - Institut national de santé publique
Phone: 418- 650-5115
Saskatchewan Public Health
Toll Free: 1-800-661-0408 ext. 8391