COVID Vaccines and Rapid Testing

Considerations and Tips for Employers to help navigate the latest COVID measures


By Michelle Rae, Executive Director

The procedures you have in place for dealing with COVID will likely be part of your regular health and safety program for the foreseeable future. This includes using a hierarchy of controls to control hazards from the most to the least effective such as elimination (and substitution), engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE). These controls are part of your workplace safety plans that should be reviewed on a regular basis.

And now with a vaccine available, businesses are grappling with how to navigate the issue of mandatory vaccination and determine whether they are legally permitted to require their employees to provide proof of vaccination. Some jurisdictions are requiring full vaccination in select indoor public settings (indoor dining, gyms, sporting events etc.) and the Government of Canada is now requiring all their employees to be fully vaccinated (unless they have a medical exemption). Companies outside of this scope must balance both their rights as an employer and the rights of their employees.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) provides information for companies considering mandatory vaccination as well as rapid testing protocols. Depending on the type of workplace, the Government of Canada is working with provinces and territories to support rapid testing implementation including providing free testing kits. Some studies suggest that up to 50% of COVID-19 transmission could be caused by people without symptoms. Testing and screening are important tools to quickly identify people who are asymptomatic and need to isolate (Health Canada – May 2021).

Protecting your employee’s privacy

Organization must have policies in place with respect to how they handle the personal information they collect in their efforts to implement measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission. This includes assigning roles and responsibilities and providing training to all employees who will be responsible for private data.

The Government of Canada provides a privacy guideline for businesses.

Regardless of the plan implemented, the CCOHS advises that companies seek legal advice to help determine what is best for their company. In all cases, guidance from local public health authorities and your jurisdictional health and safety regulator must be followed.