Before You Run Screaming, Lets Talk Screening

Under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act 2020, the Ontario government has passed various regulations to govern reopening and implement restrictions to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Eastern Ontario has now switched back to the colour-coded framework and eastern Ontario communities are currently in the Green or Orange Zone. Communities in these zones are governed by a regulation that sets rules for areas in Stage 3. 

Under this regulation, businesses and organizations (in the Green, Yellow and Orange Zones) must follow certain requirements (if they are open). In particular, they must:

  1. Operate in accordance with all applicable laws;
  2. Operate in compliance with advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials;
  3. Operate in accordance with directions of the Chief Medical Officer of Health or another public health official as it relates to screening individuals [More on this below];
  4. Comply with recommendations for working remotely; and
  5. Ensure that persons in indoor areas wear a mask or face covering that covers their mouth, nose and chin (subject to the exemptions that we discussed in a previous blog).

In our view, based on reviewing the information provided by public health and the comments from public health in various jurisdictions, Condominium Corporations likely qualify as organizations. As a result, it is our view that condominium corporations must comply with the above noted rules, including the rule with respect to screening. 

What does this mean and how can condominium corporations comply?

 In order to comply with the rules respecting screening, condos will need to:

  • Post signage (visible to the public) at all entrances to the premises that tells individuals how to screen themselves before entering; and
  • Actively screen every person who works at the condominium corporation.

We recognize that this is daunting for condominium boards and managers. However, we are hopeful that the information below will lessen the stress of these new requirements. 

[Note: This primarily applies to high-rise condominiums. However, given the reference to the premises as a whole, all condominium corporations (especially those with employees and / or interior common element spaces) will need to ensure compliance as well.]

Signage and self-screening

Condominiums are required to post signage for individuals entering the premises that confirms they must screen themselves before entering.  However, condos are not required to actively screen these individuals. In other words, condos are not required to ask individuals (apart from workers), whether the screening has been completed before someone can enter the building.

Local Public Health Units have posted many sign options that condos can use to meet the requirement to post signage.  Here are a few signs that condominiums can easily print and post to meet the requirement:

[Note: There are links provided at the end of this blog for local health units. You can follow those links for additional signage options, including options for additional languages.]

Active screening

As confirmed by the regulation, condominiums are required to actively screen workers. This requirement applies to condominium employees, as well as contractors, Management personnel and anyone else who performs work on the property. In my view, the screening requirement likely does not apply to persons who are making deliveries to the condominium (because their own employers should be undertaking separate screening applicable to them). But more on this below.

The screening requirement means that workers must be asked questions on a daily basis, and must provide suitable answers, before they are permitted to enter the premises.

There are many possible procedures to fulfill this screening obligation (including having workers, who intend to enter the property on any given day, visit a website and complete a questionnaire, etc.). Another option would be to email a questionnaire to the worker (for completion and return) on a daily basis. Condominium corporations can certainly be creative and implement their own systems for distributing and collecting screening data. 

In order to assist, we have reviewed various options for implementing screening for workers set out in the different public health jurisdictions to consider options. In our view, the Government of Ontario Covid-19 screening system is a fairly simple way to meet the requirement. Here’s how it works:

Step 1:            Workers would go to the following website to fill out the Covid-19 screening:

Step 2:            Workers will get their results stating either: “You can go” or “Do not go”.

Step 3:            The worker will get three options for saving their results: (1) Email result; (2) Save screening result; or (3) Print screening result.

The Corporation can require that workers either email the results to a specific email address at the condominium or print and keep the results (for disclosure when they attend at the property). For regular employees / contractors, it is likely best to put a policy in place that requires the employee or contractor to fill out the screening and email the results before each shift. 

For other workers, the Corporation can post a sign requiring that workers go to the website and email the results before they will be permitted entry to the building. For workers who do not have internet access, hard copies of a screening form should be made available.

[Note: The regulations require organizations to screen workers at the condominium corporation. It is not clear that this would relate to workers attending at an owner’s unit, but the safe approach is likely to assume that it does apply in such cases where the worker travels across interior common elements. Based on a review of the government documentation, it appears that workers that travel to multiple locations during the day (examples given were delivery truck drivers, take-out, grocery, prescription delivery staff, etc.) are to be screened by their employer. However, to be safe, the condominium corporation could implement a policy that all workers coming to the condominium must fill out the screening form and email it to the Corporation / bring a copy with them.]

Another option would be to post this sign: Worker Screening Sign – Workers would scan the QR code (or enter the website) and it will bring them to the link to fill out the Ottawa Public Health online screening. Once completed, there will be a message that tells the worker that they can proceed or to go home. This can be displayed on their cell phone, tablet or computer. The Corporation should also have paper copies of screening forms available. 

What about the exterior common elements?

The way that the regulation is phrased, it appears to relate to workers on the exterior common elements as well.  We recognize that this could be a huge undertaking, especially if the Corporation has a construction project going on. Here is an option that we think meets the spirit and intent of the legislation, while avoiding the massive undertaking of monitoring the different workers on site:

If the worker(s) are employees of another company, the condominium corporation could ask for written confirmation from the employer that they are completing the necessary screening each day and that no workers will be permitted to attend on site if they answer yes to any of the screening questions.  This ensures that the workers have been actively screened, but also lessens the burden of chasing each worker to review the screening

Additional notes:

There is an additional requirement in this regulation that requires businesses to have a safety plan. It is my view that condominium corporations would not be classified as a business. As a result, I no longer believe that safety plans are strictly required. However, as noted in our previous blog, it is a good idea for condominium corporations to put in place a safety plan.

Helpful websites for signs and screening information:

Again, we recognize that this is a significant additional burden on condominium boards and management. We hope the information above assists in navigating this new requirement.

We will continue to keep you updated on these important measures (and their impact on condominiums)!