Guidance for industry in Canada's natural resource sectors to protect the health and safety of workers and nearby communities

Purpose

The spread of COVID-19 can occur when workers are exposed to the virus at work and then return to their local communities, or from interactions between workers and members of Indigenous communities (through support and supply chains, lodging and food and other services) in natural resources sectors (for example energy, mining/resource extraction, forestry).

The following is offered as general guidance which is current as of the time of publishing. Please refer to the resources section below to obtain the most up-to-date information. This document provides over-arching practical guidance on public health measures to reduce the potential for the spread of COVID-19 within Indigenous communities that are near resource sector operations. However, this document should not be considered as comprehensive and all-inclusive. This guidance builds on public health guidance and operational requirements put in place by federal or provincial/territorial governments for industry operations. It should also be considered within the context of local communities' needs and unique circumstances as needs will continue to vary in different parts of the country. Employers and local community leaders are encouraged to engage frequently with one another and provincial/territorial public health officials to ensure all parties are kept informed of developments.

It is important for industry to align this guidance with the provincial or territorial guidance recommended by the public health authorities, Labour code and occupational health and safety standards in the jurisdiction where the operation is functioning. More detailed information on these non-federal measures can be found at the provincial and territorial resources for COVID-19 website as detailed in the resources section below.

Context

With a stabilization and subsequent decrease in the number of newly infected Canadians, provincial/ territorial governments and the natural resources sectors are moving to safely resume operations and contribute to Canada's economic recovery.

The natural resources sectors are a significant contributor to both Canada's economy and the economies of Indigenous communities and its recovery is pivotal for the recovery of Canada's overall economy. Even though most provinces have declared the natural resources sectors an essential service, many operations across the country have either reduced their operations or have suspended them entirely to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

It is recognized that industry has been proactive in adapting its practices to protect workers and communities. In resuming operations, it will be important to be mindful that Indigenous communities, especially remote and fly-in communities, where industrial operations are frequently located, are uniquely susceptible to COVID-19 during the crisis. These factors include a greater prevalence of underlying health conditions, and realities such as overcrowding and limited health care infrastructure. It is crucial that Indigenous people play a key role in decisions made to protect the health of their communities. The adoption of public health measures by mining operations, exploration projects and other natural resource projects, in addition to existing occupational health and safety measures, is therefore not only imperative to protect workers, but also neighbouring communities. Industry should take the lead from Indigenous communities, working together to address concerns and minimize risk.

Guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within operational sites

As the Canadian natural resources sectors begin to resume operations, the following practical guidance is offered for those resource sectors. It includes 6 main elements:

  1. limited interactions and physical distancing
  2. increased hygiene and protective actions
  3. food safety
  4. worker accommodations
  5. monitor symptoms
  6. community and public health engagement

Adopting the recommendations provided in this guidance will protect workers and communities from the potential risk of COVID-19 and minimize the impacts of a potential second wave.

On all sites, clear signage should be posted in high traffic areas to inform those on the site about how to maintain health and safety measures during the pandemic. Also post and communicate to workers the procedures to be followed if there is a suspected case of illness/symptoms.

1. Limited interaction and physical distancing

  • Reduce the number of personnel on-site at any given time by staggering shifts and work locations, meetings, breaks, safety toolbox talks, and orientations
  • Consider encouraging workers to work from home where possible
  • Limit visitors to those who are essential to the site's operation
  • Maintain 2 metres distance between workers, where possible. Where it is not possible, workers should be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) according to local public health guidance as appropriate, or use non-medical cloth masks or face coverings.

    Use of non-medical masks or cloth face coverings should be encouraged while on site in any capacity, especially when physically distancing of 2 metres cannot be maintained. For further information consult the non-medical masks and cloth face coverings website.

  • Physical distancing in all common areas should be observed and non-essential common areas (recreational facilities) should be closed to discourage gatherings of multiple people. Current public health orders that outline the maximum gathering size vary by province or territory and should be observed. There should be no more than this maximum in the same space under any circumstance, including common areas in bunkhouses and cafeterias.
  • Public health measures should be observed, even if individuals are not symptomatic, as asymptomatic individuals can still carry and transmit the virus. Where possible, minimize or eliminate business-related travel between the work site and nearby communities to minimize opportunities for transmission.
  • In-person meetings should only take place if required and should be held in smaller groups in open spaces or outside. If larger meetings are required, alternative methods including videoconference or teleconference should be used.
  • Limit the number of occupants in any elevator to ensure physical distancing of 2 metres is maintained
  • One-way staircases and corridors should be established where practical to minimize worker contact

Employers and workers may wish to refer to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website for further information as detailed in the Resources section below.

2. Increased hand hygiene and protective actions

  • Increase the number of handwashing stations and post signage to identify their location. Encourage hand hygiene. Use approved hand sanitizers if soap and water is not available.
  • Clean offices, washrooms, lunch and break rooms or trailers, and other workspaces frequently every day. Focus on commonly touched surfaces such as doorknobs, handles, handrails, tables, chairs, pens, tools, radios, vending machines, and kitchen equipment.
  • If possible, obtain enough equipment (tools/phones/other devices) so that sharing is not required. If sharing equipment is necessary, regularly clean shared tools, phones, and other devices with alcohol wipes or disinfectant, as appropriate.
  • If gloves are worn, wash hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer after they are removed.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) should not be shared unless cleaned and disinfected per the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Assign one driver per vehicle. Shared vehicles should be cleaned and disinfected between driver changes.

3. Food safety

  • Avoid serving food as a buffet style cafeteria
  • Physical distancing practices, such as entry/exit corridors and distancing tables and chairs should be implemented in the cafeteria
  • Use common cleaning and disinfection methods to kill coronaviruses
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and food packaging. If there is no running water, use one of the approved hand sanitizers.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables under running water
  • Washing fresh produce with soap, chlorine or other chemicals is not recommended. Fresh produce is porous and can absorb chemicals that are not intended to be eaten.
  • Cook food to recommended safe internal temperatures. Coronaviruses are killed by normal cooking temperatures.
  • Avoid cross-contamination of raw and ready-to-eat or cooked foods
  • Disinfect any surfaces that come into contact with food before and after meal preparation

4. Worker accommodations

  • In a work camp, each person should have their own room (if possible). Rooms should be cleaned daily and fully disinfected and cleaned between changes in personnel.
  • Cafeterias, washrooms and other shared areas should have adequate ventilation (for example HVAC, open windows or fans) and should be cleaned at least daily. A list of approved disinfectants and hand sanitizers can be found online.
  • Sheets, towels and clothing should be washed frequently
  • In a work camp, symptomatic individuals should isolate in a separate room with their own washroom (where possible) and have meals delivered to them. If separate accommodations are not possible, employers should ensure that individuals maintain 2 metres of distance. Employers should consult with their local public health authorities and put in a place a plan in the case physical distancing cannot be maintained or care is required.
  • Rooms used for isolation should be thoroughly cleaned once the isolation period ends.
  • If isolation in a work camp is not possible, the individual may be relocated, if advised by public health officials. Individuals must practice respiratory etiquette, hand hygiene, and physical distancing protocols while in transit.
  • Rooms or bunk areas of those who have experienced symptoms either at camp or who have left camp must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. The individual's towels, sheets, and clothing should be cleaned separately as soon as possible.

Further information about work camps can be found at Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website as detailed in the Resource Section below.

5. Monitor symptoms

  • Workers must assess themselves for COVID-19-like symptoms before entering a site or using group transportation. Employers should develop procedures to assist workers in monitoring their health. It should be clearly communicated to workers their responsibility to assess themselves daily for COVID-19-like symptoms.
  • Before entering a site, workers should be assessed through a verbal symptom check (ask employees if they are ill or have symptoms). Do not allow anyone on site if they are sick. Anyone with COVID‐19-like symptoms must report to a health professional and self-isolate immediately for the period of time specified by health officials in the jurisdiction. Anyone who has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or suspected of having COVID-19 must self-isolate for the period of time specified by health officials in the jurisdiction.
  • Unapproved COVID-19 testing should not be used
  • Workers should be assessed for symptoms before using any group transportation (e.g.. bus, plane) to travel to and from or within the mine site or work camp. These assessments should include verbal symptom checks. Those with symptoms should not use group transportation when being relocated for isolation.
  • For information purposes, employers should consider the epidemiology of disease in communities and centers that workers are coming from and operations are located near.
  • Public health measures should be observed, even if individuals are not symptomatic, as asymptomatic individuals can still carry and transmit the virus. Where possible, minimize or eliminate business-related travel between the work site and nearby communities to minimize opportunities for transmission.

6. Community and public health engagement

  • Employers are asked to maintain frequent and regular contact with local community leaders. Employers should maintain appropriate track methods of illnesses and positive cases should be reported to local community leadership, as appropriate.
  • Maintain continuous communication with provincial public health officials, with the goal of ensuring the safety of workers and to ensure the virus stays out of communities.
  • Limit visitors to those who are essential to the site's operation. Maintain a list of all individuals present on site (workers, contractors, suppliers, etc.) and their contact information in case contact tracing is required.
  • Employers are asked to develop COVID-19 plan and ensure that workers can adhere to public health guidelines. This plan should include information on how employers plan to educate and inform workers about COVID-19 and best practices. Employers should be prepared to provide their plans to their local health authorities.
  • In cases where communities have an impact benefit agreement with resource development projects, employers should work with communities in the development of back-to-work guidelines

The above guidance on core personal public health measures is not exhaustive, and is constantly changing. However, if implemented, these measures will enable the Canadian natural resources sectors to safely begin their recovery.

Additional guidance to prevent spread of COVID-19 external to the natural resources sites

Minimizing the spread of COVID-19 within sites will help assure that the virus is not subsequently spread to communities outside of them, including Indigenous communities. The same principles (limited interactions and physical distancingFootnote 1, engineering, and administrative controlsFootnote 2) apply within sites as they do in their external relations.

As natural resources operations begin to ramp up, the need to hire crew, contractors, and tradespeople, and the need to procure necessary materials, equipment, and goods, and conduct other business outside of the job site will increase. Indigenous communities and businesses have a long-standing relationship with Canadian natural resources companies. In order to ensure that COVID-19 is not transmitted to Indigenous communities, operators should consider identifying opportunities and implementing measures to reduce travel between the job site and the community when procuring goods and services. This includes:

Where engagement with Indigenous communities must be undertaken to reopen or expand the natural resources sectors (i.e. exploration, development), it is important to keep in mind that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a considerable burden for First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities. Many communities have limited access to essential services and leadership is occupied in its response to the pandemic. Although this in no way negates the duty to consult, it is worth considering that such initiatives may not be the top priority for nearby Indigenous communities, and that more time may be required for consultation or engagement than would ordinarily be necessary While alternative options for undertaking engagement activities (online sessions, etc.) could be offered, if necessary, future engagements should be planned accordingly.

Resources:

Annex: Highlights of practices implemented by natural resources companies as of May 4, 2020

Policies and oversight
  • Implementing directives on hygiene, cleaning, physical distancing, travel and self-isolation requirements
  • Clearly communicating directives to employees before entering worksite, and while on the job
  • Contracting healthcare/infections disease experts to inform policies/guidance
  • Using health and safety personnel to ensure compliance on site
  • Setting up teams dedicated to COVID-19 response and have them work with local, provincial and federal health authorities to support coordinated response
Screening
  • Using an online wellness platform to perform remote screening
  • Implementing mobile/rapid testing for employees before entering worksites
Cleaning and disinfection
  • Increasing cleaning frequency and intensity
  • Where possible, involving operators in disinfection practices (e.g. have operators disinfect workstations at the beginning of their shifts)
  • Where needed, removing restrictions on more effective cleaning products
  • Exploring options to employ handheld ultraviolet-C sterilizers to clean surfaces and incoming shipments
Practices for work camps and travel
  • Shuttling employees directly to worksite from airports, without any stops in communities
  • Reducing shuttle capacity to increase ability to physically distance
  • Mandatory 14 day isolation when arriving to a fly-in/fly-out site
  • Employing health and safety professionals to be on site 24/7 to enforce compliance
On-site practices
  • Banning gatherings and implementing practices like staggered lunch breaks
  • Modifying shift schedules to reduce the number of shift changes (either by increasing the number of days in/days out, staggering shifts, or reducing hours of operation)
  • Employing health and safety professionals to be on site 24/7 to enforce compliance
  • Providing PPE to workers, or requiring the use of non-medical face coverings when physical distancing is not possible
Protecting Indigenous peoples
  • If possible, ceasing charters flights in and out of Inuit and Innu communities
  • Sending Indigenous workers home with pay to reduce the potential of spreading the virus into their home communities
Supporting employees
  • Supporting workers who are sent home, but unable to work from home by paying a percentage of their wages
  • Continuing health benefits for employees unable to work
Regulators
  • Employing technologies or practices that enable field workers to continue their monitoring work remotely
  • Daily check-ins with regulators
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