Because of the higher transmissibility of the variants of concern (VOCs), there have been changes to the assessment of COVID-19 transmission risk following an exposure as outlined in the Ontario Ministry of Health (MOH) Guidance to public health units (PHUs) on the management of COVID-19 cases and contacts.
Workplace exposures are deemed high risk in the MOH guidance when the contact was exposed to a case within 2 metres for a cumulative duration of 15 minutes or more, regardless of whether the case and/or contact was masked. This is because in many workplaces, there is no assurance about the quality of the masks used by others, and because there is no guarantee everyone wears their mask correctly and consistently.
However, such an exposure may be considered low risk if the contact was consistently wearing appropriate PPE for the duration of the interaction or was separated by an appropriate barrier and with appropriate air ventilation. In this context, Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development inspectors are looking for the use of eye protection with appropriate masking when workers are within two metres of another person without a barrier between them.
When workers are performing tasks that require them to work within two metres of another person without a barrier (e.g., Plexiglas, partition, wall), then personal protective equipment (PPE) is needed. To protect workers against COVID-19 in non-healthcare workplaces, PPE includes:
- Appropriate eye protection for COVID-19 which protects the wearer from exposure to respiratory droplets from the front and sides of the eyes (e.g., safety glasses with side shields, goggles and face shields).
- Surgical or procedure masks (or masks that provide equal or greater protection).
For comprehensive details on PPE and the use of masks and eye protection in the workplace, refer to Using masks in the workplace | Ontario.ca.