Safety Swap: Preventing the spread of COVID-19

Safety Swap: Preventing the spread of COVID-19

​​​​​​​​​​​COVID-19 has had a global impact, including within Manitoba workplaces. This Safety Swap answers frequently askedSafety Swap questions about COVID-19, and describes actions your committee can take to be a leader in preventing the spread of the virus in your workplace.

Questions that could​ be used to spark discussion:

How is COVID-19 spread?

Respiratory droplets and aerosols are made when we do every day things like talk, cough, breathe, sneeze, or sing. The virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from person to person through respiratory droplets and aerosols from someone infected with the virus, predominantly through close contact (within 2 metres or 6 feet).

You can also get COVID-19 by touching objects contaminated with the virus, and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose.

You can transmit COVID-19 before showing symptoms or without ever developing symptoms.

Source: Manitoba Health

​What are som​​e common symptoms of COVID-19?

Common coronaviruses produce a variety of symptoms that range from mild to severe. Symptoms may include:
  • fever/chills
  • sore throat/hoarse voice
  • vomiting or diarrhea for more than 24 hours
  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • muscle aches
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • skin rash of unknown origin
  • runny nose
  • conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • nausea or loss of appetite
  • loss of taste or smell
More severe symptoms, such as pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, and kidney failure, can also occur. COVID-19 can be fatal. The risk of severe disease may be higher if you have a weakened immune system or an underlying chronic condition (including diabetes, cancer, and heart, renal or chronic lung diseases). Age (60 years and older) is a risk factor; however, COVID-19 has been seen in all ages.

It may take up to 14 days for symptoms to appear after exposure to COVID-19 or other coronaviruses.

Source: Manitoba Health

How can committee mem​bers support the workplace in preventing the spread of COVID-19?

To help reduce the spread, you can be a leader in promoting your workplace communicable disease prevention plan. Your workplace's plan may include these actions for committees to take:

Encourage all co-workers to assess their own personal risk and preferences when participating in specific activities. This assessment will help you decide which personal preventive measures to take. Use the guidance at Manitoba Health to help you with your assessments.

Review the housekeeping policies to determine if high-touch points (door knobs, elevator buttons, railings and workstations) are being cleaned more frequently. Manitoba Health suggests at least 2 times per day or more often as needed.

Bring attention to shared workspaces such as kitchens. Remind staff to avoid sharing cups, glasses, dishes, or cutlery, and ask them to ensure cups, glasses, dishes, and cutlery are thoroughly cleaned using soap and warm water after each use, or placed in the dishwasher for cleaning.

Make sure boxes of tissue are available for staff during inspections.

Ensure your workplace follows internal policies regarding the use of personal protective equipment, staying home when sick, and vaccination policies.

Make your co-workers aware of how important it is to stay home if they are feeling unwell (for example, if they are coughing, sneezing, have a fever or a runny nose). Make sure you and your co-workers know what your workplace's policies are related to sick leave.

Ensure that clean handwashing facilities are available. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer should be placed in various areas around the workplace, including entrances, boardrooms and breakrooms.

Download, print and hang up hand hygiene and cough etiquette posters in your workplace. Both posters are available in multiple languages.

Speak to your employer about ventilation systems, to ensure they're in good working condition. Opening doors or windows is also an option.

Arm yourself with information about COVID-19 so you can effectively respond to the questions being asked by your co-workers. The additional resources and references section of this Safety Swap lists some authoritative sources of information about COVID-19.

What are some co​mmon illness prevention measures that my committee can promote?

  • ​Washing your hands regularly with soap and water. You can use an alcohol-based hand cleanser if your hands aren't visibly dirty. Hands should be washed:
    • after coughing or sneezing, or using a tissue
    • when caring for a sick person
    • before, during and after you prepare food
    • before eating
    • after toilet use
    • when hands are visibly dirty.
  • Practicing effective cough etiquette by coughing into a tissue or your sleeve (elbow).
  • Avoiding touching your face (especially your eyes, nose or mouth).
  • Staying home when sick.
  • Completing the COVID-19 vaccination series as soon as possible once you're eligible. COVID-19 vaccinations are proven to significantly protect against getting COVID-19, and protect against severe disease, hospitalization or death if you do get COVID-19.

​What can I tell a wor​ker about their right to refuse work during the pandemic?

Under the Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health Act, workers have the right to refuse work that they reasonably believe constitutes a danger to their safety and health or the safety and health of another person should they perform the task. There is a legal process that work refusals must follow. Click here to read the steps to follow.

If you have questions regarding your right to refuse work that you reasonably believe constitutes a danger to your safety and health, please call 1-855-957-SAFE (7233) to speak to the Workplace Safety and Health Branch.

Top ​​Tips:

  1. Understand how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and help ensure your co-workers understand as well.

  2. Assess your own personal risk and preferences when participating in specific activities and follow recommendations as appropriate.
  3. Wash your hands often, cover your cough and stay home if you are sick. Be a good example for other co-workers.

  4. Complete the COVID-19 vaccination series as soon as possible once you're eligible.

  5. During inspections, watch for learning opportunities where you can raise awareness about effective virus prevention.

Additional Resou​​rces and References

Share y​our ideas!

Share your ideas! If you would like to share your best practices with other safety and health committee leaders, we'd like to hear from you. Your idea might be featured in an upcoming issue of Safety Swap! Email us: for more information.

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