What restaurants, their employees and customers should know about the new risks in step 3

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Ottawa and much of Ontario are navigating a new world this weekend, a world that offers more freedom but also presents risks that should not be overlooked, say labor and safety prevention experts. Infectious diseases.Eastern Ontario entered Stage 3 on Friday, which means cinemas and yoga studios can reopen, as well as karaoke bars, pubs and restaurants.

These particular places are going to be really troublesome. You only need one person.– Dr Gerald Evans, Université Queens

“Right now restaurants and bars have been highlighted as places where transmission of this virus occurs more easily than in an outdoor environment … or even in a hospital,” said Dr. Gerald Evans, president of the infectious diseases division. diseases at Queen’s University and medical director of infection prevention and control at the Kingston Health Sciences Center.

“These particular places are going to be really awkward. All you need is a person. “

Guests inside restaurants and bars are required to wear face masks unless they are eating or drinking. Waiters must also wear masks indoors. (Andrew Lee / CBC)

The risk of transmission indoors comes from two main culprits, he said: large droplets and small droplets. Both leave our bodies when we do things like talking, coughing, and sneezing, and typically fall to surfaces or the floor within two meters of us.

Big droplets get the most attention, and for good reason. They are responsible for around 95% of COVID-19 infections, according to Evans.

But there are growing concerns that the virus is moving into smaller particles or aerosols. These droplets are tiny and can travel around a room. They can also be left hanging for a while.

“The longer you stay in this indoor space, the more likely you are to inhale enough to cause transmission,” said Evans.

Outside, he says, the small droplets are largely harmless because they are diluted by the atmosphere. Inside, they are more disturbing.

Follow the rules closely, the lawyer recommends

It’s this increased risk posed by Step 3 that keeps Nelligan Law’s phones ringing.

The Ottawa law firm launched a toll-free helpline in March to offer advice to workers and employers on how to reduce liability, protect their rights and understand protections under the Occupational Health and Safety Act during the pandemic.

“A question that has been constant throughout, whether in March or July, has been:” What if I don’t feel safe going to work? “, Said lawyer Malini Vijaykumar.

If a restaurant or bar server does not feel safe, Vijaykumar recommends raising their concerns to their employer, who is obligated to investigate. If conditions do not change, employees can refuse to work in an unsafe workplace and complain to the Ministry of Labor.

Employers who fail to follow public health guidelines to reopen safely during the COVID-19 pandemic can face a host of sanctions, she said.

If found in a dangerous work environment, employers can face fines and even jail time in rare cases. Certain regulated businesses, including restaurants and nail salons, may be closed and fined if Ottawa Public Health (OPH) receives and investigates complaints, anonymous or otherwise.

A waiter in protective clothing serves customers in a restaurant in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on July 6, 2020. (Other pens / AP)

For these reasons, Vijaykumar recommends that employers do everything possible to ensure that they adhere to the health recommendations issued by PHO and the province.

“The more an employer can describe as concrete measures to ensure a safe workplace, the more he mitigates this risk,” she said.

Be selective, advises the doctor

Evans suggests residents stay on top of public health guidelines so they can decide which companies are worth their money.

Among its recommendations, OPH says that restaurants should consider a reservation-only model, keep tables two meters apart, limit seating at each table to six, post public health information so that customers can screen themselves before entering, and consider installing plexiglass screens where physical distance is not possible.

OPH also advises restaurants not to sit people down in areas with a lot of foot traffic, provide single-use condiments, and keep the music low to discourage addictions and loud conversations, which produces more droplets.

“Look for a great restaurant [and] has the ability to keep people at bay, “Evans recommends.” If it’s in a big space with few people, you might be able to get by.

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