Manufacturing Safety for Manitoba

COVID-19 SECOND WAVE: What Manufacturers Need to Know

COVID-19 SECOND WAVE: What Manufacturers Need to Know

Posted on December 7, 2020


As Canadians bunker down for fall and prepare for winter, manufacturers are facing new challenges with the sharp rise in positive cases. Moreover, jurisdictions across the country have increased enforcement powers to ensure compliance with public health guidelines.

Manufacturers need to successfully navigate important public health and workplace safety regulations to keep employees safe and doors open for our essential sector, which means keeping pace with changing best practices and public health guidance as our understanding of the science behind COVID evolves.


Months into the pandemic, manufacturers have a handle on the basics. Our health and safety experts at Made Safe have compiled answers to the most frequently asked questions posed by manufacturing workplaces:

1.  What should we do If we get a positive test at work?

  Follow the instructions from Shared Health but be prepared to begin contact tracing internally. This can include flow charts or other documentation that should be posted and readily available for everyone to easily locate.

  Open communication with the positive employee. Contact tracing should be done internally with appropriate confidentiality. See link.

  Ensure internal communication comes from one source.

  Identify “close contacts” of the positive employee, according to up to date definitions in your province. Gather contact information these contacts.

  Instruct close contacts to use the online self assessment tool or call Shared Health directly.

  Gather information on where in the facility your employee has been during the period of communicability. Close off and disinfect those areas.

  Prepare communication for your close contacts internally, externally (if appropriate) and to affected employees who are not close contacts.

  For more information, refer to the Protocols & Guidelines: COVID-19 Positive Employee tip sheet for comprehensive guidance and step by step instructions here.

2.  Can employers disallow carpooling?

  Unfortunately not. Behaviours outside of work and not directly connected to the duties that your employees perform on your behalf will be generally out of bounds for disciplinary action.

  The employer can, however:

     –  Provide information on how the virus spreads in close contact with another person (such as in a vehicle).

     –  Make employees aware of other instances of transmission under these circumstances.

     –  Communicate the risk of illness and advise that if they contract the illness they will be required to stay away from work for an extended period of time.

  For more information, refer to the Protocols & Guidelines: COVID-19 Positive Employee tip sheet for comprehensive guidance and step by step instructions here.

3.  Can I force my employee to get a COVID test?

  Public health authorities in most Canadian jurisdictions rely on the nose swab test (nasopharyngeal swab), which is an invasive procedure. It may not be reasonable for an employer to require their employee take a test to find out if they’re positive, or to prove a negative test result.

  In circumstances where an employee refuses to follow the directive of the public health authorities and get tested, the province has provisions for self isolation without a test (

     –  Symptomatic – isolate for a minimum of 10 days, or until symptom free for 24 hours (whichever is longer)

     –  Travel or Exposure to a Case – isolate for 14 days or until 24-hours symptom free (whichever is longer) 

4.  Will manufacturers have to close?

  Not at this time. In Manitoba, manufacturers are critical to the operation of the province as a whole and will remain open. Moreover, Canada’s National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure defines critical infrastructure as the processes, systems, facilities, technologies, networks, assets, and services essential to the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians and the effective functioning of government. The Strategy classifies critical infrastructure in Canada according to ten sectors, of which manufacturing is one.

5.  Does disinfectant fogging work?

  Disinfectant fogging, whether electrostatically charged or conventional surface sprayers, can be an effective tool for large area disinfecting processes but it is critical that you follow the four C’s: Chemistry, Concentration, Contact Time and Coverage. To be effective, any chemical must be applied as per the manufacturers recommendation by staff trained in its application. Even the best products reply on human application so select your vendor carefully.

6.  Are face shields effective?

  Not as a stand lone control measure, but as part of a layered approach to infection control face shields can be very effective.

7.  Are masks effective?

  Yes, but not all masks are created equally. Ensure that you know what masks are being worn and what performance level can be expected from each.

8.  Do I have to disinfect the workstations for every isolation order or positive test?

  Yes, this is a reasonably practicable step as required by certain legislation. It will likely not be necessary to close down your entire facility, but you will need to disinfect specific areas of concern.

9.  What should I do if someone in my employee’s household is symptomatic?

  Manufacturing workers are expected to stay home and self isolate if someone in their household is symptomatic. In Manitoba, all members of the household must also self-isolate pending test results, although there are exemptions for asymptomatic workers in the healthcare and education fields. However, they must wear medical-grade masks at all times while at work.

10.  How do I set up a cohort in my workplace?

  Identify groups of workers that must work in close proximity (manufacturing cells).

  Attempt to reduce frequency and duration of close contact.

  Identify break areas, washrooms, and other locations that will be specific to each cohort.

  Designate and sign those areas for those cohorts and remember that communication is key.

  Identify workers who will cross cohorts (supervisors / maintenance / technical services / etc.) and make every effort to:

     –  Limit the interactions

     –  Limit the duration

     –  Layer the protections during interactions (mask and face shield)

  For more information, refer to the Social Distancing in the Manufacturing Workplace tip sheet here.

11.  Does the type of mask you wear matter if you are within 6 feet?

  Yes and no. The protection you receive varies greatly form mask to mask, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that a properly fitted N95 provides the wearer with the highest level of protection. For the purposes of contact tracing, the public health authorities will not take into account whether or not your workers are wearing masks if they are inside that 6-foot radius.

12.  Any recommendations for disinfecting products used for the food industry?

  At this time, CME and Made Safe are not able to recommend food safe disinfectants. If you have a product in mind, we can help confirm that the product is on the Health Canada list and identify what procedures the manufacturer recommends.

13.  Can CME and Made Safe recommend deep cleaning companies in my area?

  CME and Made Safe are not able to make recommendations for specific cleaning companies. However, we have vetted the below companies with operations in the Winnipeg area and confirmed that the product that they use is on the Health Canada List of Disinfectants with Evidence Against COVID-19 (


Emergency Contact


Miller Environmental Corportation


Contact Sanitize




Kasina PureTek


Premier Removal Services


a.  We will in the coming days and weeks reach out to cleaning contractors in the South, Westman, and North for inclusion on this list.

14.  How can I keep medical information confidential in small cohorts/small operations?

  Given the nature of the manufacturing work environment, protecting confidentially can prove challenging (for example, when taping off a particular employees work station). While it may not be possible to achieve confidentiality in every situation, manufacturers are encouraged to take steps such as listed:

     –  If possible, extend the cleaning area to a larger section, which makes it less obvious which specific workstation is being disinfected.

     –  Disinfection should take place as quickly as possible, and as such should be done with as few people in the area as possible. This may prevent the need entirely to identify a single workstation.

     –  If reasonable, cleanings could be done after hours.

15.  How should an employer handle situations where contact tracing indicates exposure to other close contacts where symptoms are evident but an employee refuse to be tested?

  Ultimately, it is the employer who is responsible for the safety of their workers. The employer will need to send the symptomatic worker away from the workplace with instructions to:

–  Go straight home and self isolate.

–  Contact Shared Health via phone at 204-788-8200 or (toll free at 1-800-315-9257) or use the screening tool and follow the     directions of the public health authority.

–  Explain that based on the Public Health Authority’s instructions, this worker is now expected to stay away from the workplace     for a minimum of 10 days or until they have been symptom free for 24 hours, whichever is longer.

16.  Is a private test firm available to provide speed tests for a fee?

  There is not currently a service that is available in Manitoba.

17.  Do we need to upgrade our HVAC systems or install air purifiers?

  Stand-alone HEPA air filters can be effective, however placement in the space is key. Creating additional airflow in the room can result in airborne viruses being blown towards the breathing zones of the occupants. Consult a hygienist for guidance on the specific needs and best practices in your facility.

 MERV 13 rated filters, or HEPA filters at minimum are able to capture airborne viruses and bacteria, however retrofitting existing HVAC system with these filters if they are not already designed for it will create too much pressure and reduce the efficiency and effectiveness of the system. Increasing the filtration will require an increase in the surface area of the filters being used. Contact an HVAC professional for assistance finding a solution that fits with the needs of your facility.

18.  With winter weather approaching, what considerations should be made for facilities (airflow) and individuals (any differences in transmission due to cold or dry air)?

  Studies show that the virus is stable longer in colder, drier conditions.  As well, smaller particles stay airborne longer in these conditions. Recommendations are that the relative humidity be kept between 40%-60% for optimal conditions. Temperature appears to be less important than humidity. Keeping indoor temperatures at 20C – 23.5C, (in compliance with the CSA standard for Office Ergonomics CSA Z412-17), will provide an acceptable temperature base.

19.  What guidance can you offer to hire and onboard staff in a virtual or cohorted work environment? 

  DO onboard new employees in a cohort if possible. This will help your new team member immediately feel connected. 

  DO include COVID-specific health and safety training on the first day. Follow TWI Job Instruction principles for the most efficient training process possible. Use recorded videos to demonstrate hands-on processes wherever possible (e.g. hand washing) and remember to record from the workers point of view. When training must take place face-to-face, and in instances where the worker and trainer must closer than 2 meters apart, layer protection with either a three-layer, medical, or N95 mask and face shield over top.

  DO assign a buddy for your new team member and make sure they connect on Day 1.

  DO make sure your new employees are adequately set up with all the equipment they need to launch successfully on their first day.

  DO create a schedule for the employee’s first week, which allows them a sense of purpose and direction in the early days.  If you can, take it one step further by creating 30, 60 and 90-day onboarding plans.

  DO build in early milestones and celebrations to build confidence and collaboration with the team.

20.  How long do close contacts need to self-isolate?

  Close contacts of a positive case should immediately begin self-isolating and contact Shared Health for more direction.

     –  The isolation period is 14 days.  If the worker develops symptoms during that time, they will need to be symptom-free for the full 14 days or until they have been symptom-free for 24 hours unless otherwise directed by public health officials.

Source: Link

21.  How do you deal with employees who have a doctor’s note permitting them to not wear a mask at work?

  No medical note grants a worker the right to put others at risk.

  A Bona Fide Occupational Requirement (the mask) trumps other considerations in this instance. The employer is responsible for ensuring the safety of the entire workforce, and mask use is a part of that. An employee who cannot wear a mask cannot be in an area where they could spread the virus to other workers.

  The employer will be required to accommodate the worker with the mask restriction up to the point of undue hardship. Consult with your labour counsel to determine what that means for your organization.

22.  Who is protected by wearing a mask?

  In short, everyone is protected when a mask is worn:

–  The wearer: depending on the type of mask worn the protection level will vary from preventing the wearer from having larger droplets in their breathing zone (cloth mask) to protecting against breathing in .3 micron sized particulate (N95).

–  Close contacts: appropriate face coverings will catch larger droplets and the more effective the filtering of the mask, the smaller the droplet that is contained, and the more protection that is provided to those around the wearer (depending on appropriate maintenance).

–  The organization / community as a whole: every opportunity taken to prevent the transmission of the virus is an added layer of     protection and adds up. Masks prevent transmissions.

23.  How are companies handling the labour shortages and illness-related absenteeism during the pandemic?

  Preparation and planning is critical to successfully navigating the pandemic. First, maintain lists on pieces of equipment of who is trained to do that function.

  Cross-train employees so in case of high absences, you are able to move people out of junior roles to more technical ones, allowing for contingent labour (i.e. temp staff) to come in and do the lesser skilled work.

  Develop flow charts of exactly what happens in any given scenario so everyone is well informed to make quick decisions and keep moving.

24.  Is there information available that provides guidelines for barriers between staff? Width, height, seated vs standing? Does the type of ventilation system impact the effectiveness of barriers?

  There are no guidelines available for barrier design. That said, the intent is to separate breathing zones and manage airflow so that what one person breathes out is not being breathed in by a second person before the larger particles have fallen out of the air stream. 

  Smaller barriers, in concert with managing airflow through fans and exhaust systems, can be more effective than larger barriers on their own.

25.  Since we require employees to wear mask in indoor spaces (based on the public health order) are employers required to provide the employees masks or is it acceptable to require that they provide their own?

  Part 6.3 of the Manitoba Regulations 217/2006 states that if personal protective equipment is required to be worn or use in the work place, then the employer must provide equipment appropriate to the risk to the worker at no cost.

  The employer can choose to allow the worker to provide his or her own, as long as it provides equal or greater protection than the version provided by the employer.

  The employer will still need to monitor the mask use to ensure that it is in compliance and maintained appropriately.

26.  If an employee tests positive and they have not been at work for several days, is there any value in still deep cleaning the work area?

  There is still value in performing a cleaning. The viability of the virus varies during colder and drier weather. To ensure that the virus has been eliminated and to give your staff peace of mind, you should strongly consider disinfecting the workstation and the areas commonly visited by the positive employee.


Our team is dedicated to helping manufacturers through the COVID-19 pandemic; with resources that run the gamut from national advocacy to local shop floor solutions.

Contact our team of health and safety experts for manufacturing-specific insights and supports:  |  CME-MEC.CA

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