The Union of National Defence Employees (UNDE) continues to monitor the developments around COVID-19 and the impact on the workplace.
ln order to ensure the health and safety of all members, the National Executive Committee is having weekly teleconferences and have developed this web page to offer you up to date information and guidelines to follow. We urge you to check back regularly as new information and links will be added.
Your Union is committed to keeping you safe!
The National Defence Deputy Minister has sent communiques describing the operationalization of the Department’s COVID-19 plan. To reduce potential for transmission, the majority of the workforce is working from home. However, there is a requirement to identify and continue with critical core activities. Continuing critical core activities requires managers and supervisors to assess hazards in light of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation. This requirement is codified in the Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations; specifically, Part 19 – Hazard Prevention Program. This part requires employers, in consultation with the Workplace Health and Safety Committee/Health and Safety Representatives, to identify potential exposures, and develop control measures.
Simply put, managers and supervisors need to assess the risk associated with critical core activities, considering the current state of the COVID-19 situation, and introduce control measures to mitigate identified risks to acceptable levels. This needs to be done collaboratively with the Workplace Health and Safety Committees and/or the Health and Safety Representatives and be communicated to affected employees.
The following examples are meant to illustrate what is required:
- If your workplace requires tools or reference materials to be shared, then protocols need to be established and documented to mitigate the risk from handling potentially contaminated objects. Mitigation options may include elimination of the risk (don’t do the work) or the implementation of administrative controls such as changing a procedure so that tools/materials are not shared and/or the introduction of a disinfection routine prior to issue and return of the tool/material.
- If employees are required to work in close proximity in a tight space, consider the requirement for face masks or doing the work sequentially if possible.
Health Canada advises that cleaning of high traffic public spaces should follow regular cleaning and disinfecting regimes, both in terms of products used and surfaces targeted, as it is not likely practical/sustainable to increase the frequency of cleaning. Regardless, Real Property Operations Section Workplaces should arrange for contracted cleaning services to put increased emphasis on cleaning commonly touched surfaces like light switches, door knobs and handrails.
Evaluate your workplace for areas where people have frequent contact with each other and shared objects. Collectively, you are encouraged to clean highly touched surfaces (e.g. phones, keyboards, elevator buttons, tables) frequently and to exercise increased hand hygiene protocols. It is also recommended that items that cannot be easily cleaned (e.g., newspapers, magazines, etc) be removed.
Clearly, both employers and employees have a role to play in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Open communication and awareness briefings are a start.
In addition, managers are responsible for ensuring employees are aware of workplace specific COVID-19 concerns, associated control measures and having cleaning supplies available. Employees are responsible to follow direction and raise safety-related concerns to management and keep their personal workspace clean. Some fact sheets links are attached; however, managers and supervisors should not hesitate to acquire and distribute other fact sheets suitable to their specific workplace.
All Workplace personnel are encouraged to reach out to their Workplace Health and Safety Committee Representative or UGSO if they have any questions or concerns.
Please note that members working under provincial legislation are similar but you should consult the legislation pertaining to your province and consult your OHS committee.
AND A REMINDER TO ALL MEMBERS
A worker may refuse to work or to do work at a workplace when the worker has reasonable grounds to believe that the work constitutes a danger to his or her safety or to the safety or health of another worker or another person.