On March 24, 2020, the provincial government ordered the closure of all non-essential workplaces in Ontario as a result of the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (“COVID-19”). This mandate follows a series of directions to the entire provincial community in order to “flatten the curve” and to limit the impact of COVID-19.
Employers continuing workplace operations and whose business activity does not permit workers to work from home may face major challenges in enforcing strict physical distancing (commonly, if inexactly, referred to as ‘social distancing’) measures with an accepted safe distance of six feet. These challenges are further exacerbated as some experts suggest that the COVID-19 virus can live on surfaces for several days. Many employers in essential industries, like health care providers, are not able to implement physical distancing measures and, as a result, their workers are at a higher risk for contracting and spreading COVID-19 in the workplace.
The rapid ease with which COVID-19 spreads through communities, especially those failing to react swiftly and comprehensively to the pandemic, creates an adjudicative challenge for the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (“WSIB”) when deciding whether to grant entitlement for claims pertaining to COVID-19.