The MFL Occupational Health Centre (OHC) is a community health centre funded by Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and donations. The Centre helps workers, employers, and joint health and safety committees to improve workplace health and safety conditions and eliminate hazards.
During the COVID-19 Pandemic, many workers may be feeling unsafe in their work environment and unsure of their rights within this new context. OHC hosted a virtual presentation with panelists Blaine Duncan, Safety and Health Specialist with MGEU, and Bernie Wood, Health and Safety Activist formerly with United Steelworkers and the Canadian Labour Congress, discuss worker’s rights and how and when to use your right to refuse unsafe work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Occupational Health Centre is seeking an Occupational Health Nurse to fill a 0.6EFT position.
Integrating applicable knowledge and experience using community and occupational health principles to address health and safety challenges, the OHN primarily works to remove or mitigate workplace hazards, prevent illness and injury, and implement evidence-based solutions at the organizational/systems level.
The ideal candidate will have strong interpersonal communication skills, advanced critical thinking, and robust cross-cultural competencies.
Occupational Health Centre (OHC) is a worker-centered community health centre committed to ensuring that workers’ health is always our main priority. OHC is committed to providing accessible services and programs for all workers in Manitoba and to reducing barriers workers experience in their workplaces. We recognize that workers are diverse and have particular needs according to their gender, language, culture, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, economic status, level of education, and immigration status, and are committed to respecting and accommodating these differences appropriately.
To view a PDF version of this information, please click HERE.
Employers in Manitoba are legally responsible for protecting the health and well- being of their employees, including their psychological health.
Hazards to workers’ mental health during the pandemic may include:
Increased work demands, especially for essential workers
Worry over the risk of becoming infected with the COVID-19 virus
Risk of violence from stressed customers or patients
Harassment or bullying due to stigma from being suspected of having COVID-19 or being exposed to someone suspected of having COVID-19
Isolation, especially for those working at home
Low support without the physical presence of coworkers and supervisors, or due to increased work demands that divert attention away from providing support to workers
Rapid and poorly planned organizational changes to respond to address the needs and/or effects of COVID-19
Concern about job security and possible layoffs
Guidelines for workplaces
Take proactive measures to protect workers and limit their exposure to the COVID-19 virus. This includes implementing physical barriers between workers and the public, social distancing protocols, increased cleaning in the environment, and supplying adequate hand washing/sanitizing supplies and facilities. Make sure workers feel comfortable to raise concerns about their safety and make every effort to address these concerns.
Address disrespectful behavior, harassment, bullying, and threats of violence in accordance with the organization’s Respectful Workplace Policy as well as the Violence Prevention and Harassment Prevention policies required by law in all workplaces. Inform all workplace stakeholders that discrimination on account of illness or perceived illness is a violation of the Human Rights Code.
Do not expect the same volume of work from workers as is normally accomplished. Be prepared to adjust deadlines and workloads. This is not “business as usual”. Most workers will be experiencing stress on multiple fronts such as planning for reduced grocery trips to meet basic needs, care for children who are at home from daycare and school, concern for elderly family members, and caring for ill family members when needed.
Be flexible with working schedules. Allow workers to change or request certain shifts to accommodate their other obligations. Understand that workers working from home may start earlier or work later than usual and that schedules may fluctuate irregularly.
Increase Workers’ Control
Ask and listen to workers’ ideas and input into changes on how work is done due to COVID-19. Workers know their jobs and often have the best ideas on how things can be done more safely or done differently in a new environment. Check in with workers to evaluate the impact of changes implemented. Be prepared to adjust as needed.
Supervisors should regularly check in with workers individually about how they are feeling, at least once a week. Many people are experiencing anxiety, fear and stress at this time. Employers should recognize that workers are human beings and prioritize their well-being over the work itself.
Build in regular opportunities for your team to connect, even virtually by using video or phone conference calls.
Increase communication about organizational issues. Send regular email updates to make sure everyone is abreast of developments in a rapidly changing environment. Make sure to respond promptly to any emails or phone calls from workers about their concerns related to safety, workload, expectations, or how they are managing.
Encourage workers to take regular breaks and to stop work at their regular end time and on their regular days off
Provide workers with information about what they are entitled to if they become ill or need to assume caregiving responsibilities.
Regularly remind workers about mental health resources available to them, including an Employee Assistance Program if one is available in your workplace.
Communicate any information about possible layoffs clearly and promptly. Share your assessment of the likelihood of layoffs and the organization’s hopes for the future, but don’t promise what you might not be able to deliver. Create a plan if layoffs are necessary that includes future return to work. Provide information and support to workers to access income benefits if facing unemployment.
SAFE Work Manitoba –resources to help you start or maintain a psychological health and safety program in your workplace.
Mental Health Virtual Therapy Program– AbilitiCBT, a new free & confidential digital therapy program available to all Manitobans experiencing low to mid symptoms of anxiety due to the pandemic.
Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba has a list of local counselling resources available in Winnipeg and are running a COVID-19 anxiety ‘warm line’ where you can call 204-925-0040 and leave a message to be returned in a short period of time.
To view a PDF version of this information, please click HERE.
Many of us are suddenly working from home, in less than ideal circumstances. To avoid work becoming a (literal) pain in the neck, use these strategies to ensure your at-home-workstation is as ergonomically correct as possible.
Wherever you’re sitting, whether it’s an office chair or kitchen chair, make sure that:
You have adequate back support so the ears are in line with the shoulders and hips.
If not, try adjusting your chair (if possible) or adding a pillow to act as a lumbar support for your lower back.
Your shoulders are relaxed and level when keyboarding and using the mouse.
If not, raise/lower your chair or work surface height – try using books to prop up monitor screens or your laptop if you’re using an external keyboard. Consider using your ironing board as a height-adjustable desk!
Your hands are in line or slightly lower than your elbows.
If not, try folding a small towel to use as a wrist rest along the length of your keyboard.
Your arms are relaxed and your wrists are in a neutral/straight position (not up, down, or to one side).
If not, try the homemade wrist-rest as above.
Make sure your wrists are at the same level and as close to the keyboard as possible.
Adjust your chair height, if possible.
Align your keyboard, monitor, and chair in a straight line.
Your thighs are parallel to the floor and your knees are at the same height as your hips.
If not, try raising your chair (if possible) or adding a footrest – use books or old binders.
You have adequate space beneath your work surface to move legs.
If not, remove any objects under your work space.
Your documents and equipment are positioned correctly.
Keep frequently used items at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions and avoid reaching across your body.
Position your computer screen with your eyes naturally hitting the top of the screen, and reduce glare and brightness by adjusting your blinds and overhead lights. Use a task lamp if available; shine it away from the monitor.
If you’re working at home on a laptop, see if you can bring your external keyboard and mouse from your workplace, or even your monitor if allowed. This will give you more flexibility in your at-home work space.
If your workstation is not ideal, try to vary your tasks so you’re not in the same position and posture all day; take frequent mini-breaks and get up and move around! Try standing or pacing when taking phone calls.
Try to set up an area that is dedicated to work that you can leave at the end of the day.
OHC’s Ergonomist, Andrew Dolhy, gave a webinar presentation to Prairie members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. Please visit the PSAC website to view the video and get access to further resources on the best at-home ergonomic practices
To review a PDF version of this information, please click HERE
What is ‘Social Distancing’?
Social distancing is deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. It is used to reduce the spread of communicable diseases like COVID-19. Health officials in Manitoba already recommend some kinds of social distancing, such as self-isolation (keeping away from others) for people who are showing symptoms of respiratory illness. Other examples include school closures, changes at workplaces and the cancellation of public gatherings. In addition, public health officials are recommending the cancellation of gatherings of more than 10 people, consistent with the announcement made by the provincial government.
Why are social distancing measures being considered?
Social distancing measures are used to reduce contact between people. This limits opportunities for transmission of diseases and can reduce the spread and impact of communicable illnesses, such as COVID-19.
In the case of COVID-19, social distancing measures are being considered for the following reasons:
COVID-19 can be spread through close contact (within 2 metres or 6 feet).
Unlike seasonal influenza, the time that a person can be infectious and transmit COVID-19 is much longer.
Individuals infected with COVID-19 may be able to transmit the virus before they start to show symptoms and take precautions like self-isolating.
Using social distancing can delay and minimize the peak in COVID-19 cases to help manage the impact on the health care system.
Social Distancing For Everybody
We are all encouraged to:
Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer when hand-washing is not possible.
Avoid touching your face.
Avoid handshaking as a means of greeting. Possible alternatives may include using a slight bow, wave, or toe kick when greeting others.
When opening doors (especially bathroom or other public area doors) or touching other public surfaces, use a paper towel, tissue or disposable glove; use only your knuckle to touch light switches, elevator buttons, etc.
Avoid using public transportation during rush-hour crowding (walk, cycle, or drive a car whenever possible). Alternatively, if possible, adjust your schedule to commute early or late to avoid rush-hour crowding on public transportation.
Avoid recreational or other leisure classes, meetings, or activities where you might come into contact with people who are contagious.
Use general surface cleaning products or wipes to clean commonly touched surfaces.
Social Distancing for Workplaces
Reduce number of contacts
Avoid meeting people face-to-face. Use the telephone, online conferencing, e-mail or instant messaging to conduct business as much as possible, even when participants are in the same building.
Keep at least a 2 metre/ 6 foot distance between people and limit interactions to 10 minutes or less.
If a face-to-face meeting is unavoidable, the meeting time should be for a minimum period of time, in a large meeting room and participants should sit at least 2 metres/ 6 feet from each other.
Limit the number of customers/clients your employees would have close contact with (e.g. fewer scheduled appointments, limited number of clients in a store at any one time).
Work from home: Whenever appropriate, teleworking/work from home arrangements should be made, on a temporary basis.
Encourage customers/clients/patients to request information and materials or place orders via phone and e-mail to minimize person-to-person contact. When items or materials must be collected in person, have them ready for fast pick-up or delivery.
Postpone or cancel events with more than 25 people.
Avoid unnecessary travel for business or pleasure. Cancel or postpone any such travel, as well as nonessential meetings, gatherings, workshops and training sessions.
Notify customers/clients of the social distancing measures you are taking by posting these on the front door.
Schedule Shifts & Adjust Hours of Operation
Stagger working hours to reduce number of employees at common spaces such as entrances/exits, elevators, cafeterias, etc. and allow employees to commute to and from work at off-peak hours. For example, if the normal working hours are from 9 am to 5 pm, employers can stagger start times at one-hour intervals between 7:30 am and 10:30 am, with corresponding staggered timings for end of work. Timings of lunch and other breaks can also be staggered.
Implement shift work in settings where shifts are not already in place, and extend hours of operation. Employers should ensure separation of employees on different shifts, and increase cleaning of common areas during shift changeovers.
Limit hours of operation.
Increase space & distance
Increase the spatial separation between desks and workstations as well as individuals (e.g., employees, customers) from each other, ideally a 2 metre separation should be maintained, unless there is a physical barrier (e.g., cubicle, Plexiglas window).
Increase the space between employees and customers/clients at counters by using physical barriers.
Offer virtual or live-streamed programs, services, and activities.
Do not congregate in work rooms, lunchrooms, copier rooms or other areas where people socialize.
Eat at your desk or away from others. Bring your lunch or purchase take-out meals.
Hygiene & Housekeeping
Avoid person-to-person contact such as shaking hands.
Ensure adequate handwashing facilities are readily available. Provide tissues, hand soap, hand sanitizer and no-touch trash cans throughout the workplace.
Discourage employees from using other employees’ phones, desks, offices or other work tools and equipment.
Remind employees to avoid sharing cups, glasses, dishes or cutlery, and ensure cups/glasses/dishes/cutlery are thoroughly cleaned using soap and warm water after each use, or placed in the dishwasher for cleaning.
Remove magazines, papers, and other objects that cannot be cleaned from common rooms such as cafeterias, kitchens, break rooms, and waiting areas.
If you are a worker and you want more information on your Right to Refuse Dangerous Work, the Province of Manitoba has added new information regarding COVID-19 and the Right to Refuse Dangerous Work on their website which outlines questions to consider to determine the exposure risk and information on what Workplace Safety & Health considers appropriate controls for high-risk workplaces. OHC has also created a resource on practical social distancing recommendations and guidelines for workers and workplaces.
Are you concerned you have COVID-19 symptoms? You have two options for help:
Fill out the answers to the questions at the bottom. They are Yes or No answers. The tool will tell you whether to call Health Links, to go to a clinic, or to do nothing if you are not at risk.
Health Links – there may be a wait to have your call answered.
They will be able to assess you over the phone and tell you where to go if you need to be tested.
Local number: 204-788-8200 | Toll-free number: 1-888-315-9257
If you do not have Manitoba Health coverage (if you are a newcomer who does not yet have a Manitoba Health Card or if you are currently without status in Canada), access to screening, testing and treatment for COVID-19 will be provided at no charge. If you are concerned you have contracted COVID-19, please contact Health Links.
You may request a WRHA interpreter when you call Health Links and at the COVID-19 testing sites.
If you have returned to Manitoba from travel, either international (outside Canada) or domestic (outside Manitoba) on or after March 23, 2020, you must self-isolate and self-monitor for symptoms for at least 14 days following your return.
For more information on how to self-isolate and self-monitor, click HERE.
Healthcare workers ONLY: if you are returning from travel on or after March 23rd or if you believe you may have been exposed to COVID-19, you must contact Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health (OESH) at the WRHA as soon as possible. Please attempt to contact OESH first before calling Health Links.
Provincial Occupational Health COVID-19 Screening Line (WRHA OESH):
Local number: 204-926-1042 | Toll-free number: 1-888-203-4066
Are you experiencing anxiety, depression, or other mental health struggles and need someone to talk to?
Klinic Crisis Line – this province-wide phone line is available 24/7 for you to call for free and confidential counselling, support and referrals for people who are suicidal, in crisis or struggling to cope.
Local number: 204-786-8686 | Toll-free number: 1-888-322-3019
Westman Crisis Services – this service works with adults in the Brandon and Assiniboine regions, who are in a mental health or psychosocial crisis.
Toll-free number: 1-888-379-7699
Interlake Crisis Services – 24 Hour Crisis Line providing telephone support for individuals in the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority who are experiencing a mental health or psychosocial crisis. Also provides information and helpful resources to individuals looking for themselves or someone else.
Toll-free number: 1-888-310-4593
Southern Health Crisis Services – 24 Hour Crisis Line providing community citizens of all ages experiencing a mental health or psychosocial crisis ongoing support, crisis intervention, consultation, referral to or suggest resources and education.
Aulneau Renewal Centre – Free of charge phone counselling for community members who are isolated and experiencing anxiety during this COVID- 19 crisis. Via a phone call, you will have access to a counselor who can help you look at coping tools and resources to help you and your family during this difficult time.
Local number: 204-987-7090
Jewish Child & Family Services – Counselling and Mental Health Support for individuals, couples, and families, including specific services for newcomer communities.
Have stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19 or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits or have exhausted your Employment Insurance regular benefits between December 29, 2019 and October 3, 2020;
Had employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of your application; and,
Have not quit your job voluntarily.
Are a seasonal worker who has exhausted EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake your regular seasonal work as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Have recently exhausted your EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19.
Whether you qualify for CERB, Employment Insurance (EI) or both, you must only apply for CERB. Once you have received up to 16 weeks of CERB, if you are still eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, you can apply here.
Other supports from the federal government during COVID-19 are available HERE.
Community Unemployed Help Centre – Community Unemployed Help Centre is a community-based nonprofit agency that provides information, assistance, advice, and representation to individuals dealing with the federal government’s Employment Insurance program and Manitoba’s Employment and Income Assistance program. Through its public-education work the Centre informs Manitobans of their rights and obligations in relation to these programs.
Local number: 204-942-6556 | Toll-free number: 1-866-942-6556
Sara Riel Employment Support Line – Sara Riel, a community mental health service provider, has an Employment Support line where will be able to work through some of your questions on benefits available and resources for you to access.
Local number: 204-237-9263 ext. 137
Hours: 8AM to 4:30PM
Do you need help accessing free and/or affordable food?
Winnipeg-based organizations providing food baskets and/or hot meals:
Winnipeg Harvest – Preparing pre-packaged hampers for no-contact delivery. Contact the Food Assistance Call Centre for more information. Manitoba Health Card required.
Hours: Open on Wednesdays for regular food bank hours during the pandemic.
What they offer:
Emergency assistance on a case by case basis. Call for more details; leave a message for return if no answer.
Are you having trouble paying your rent? Does your landlord want to evict you?
Due to COVID-19, rent increases are temporarily frozen from April 1 to May 31 and Residential Tenancies Branch has “paused” scheduling non-urgent eviction hearings until May 31, 2020. You will be allowed to stay in your unit until eviction hearings are rescheduled.
Drop in currently closed during the day. Meals offered at 9:00 AM, 12:30 PM and 6:45 PM.
Main Street Project – community health agency operating on housing-first and harm-reduction principles offering emergency shelter for up to 60 individuals
Local number: 204-982-8229
Location: 75 Martha Street
Modified drop in services during the day, to following Public Health social distancing guidelines. May open warming shelter to expand capacity for evening shelter.
Salvation Army Booth Centre– Christian organization offering temporary accommodations and meals for up to 250 men and women in a clean, safe and secure environment.
Local number: 204- 946-9402
Location: 180 Henry Avenue
Safe and Warm Shelter at Samaritan House (Brandon) –10-bed emergency shelter designated for adults who experience occasional homelessness. The shelter is fully staffed with trained support workers and security guards who ensure safety and assistance for clients.
Local number: 204-726-0758
Location: 820 Pacific Avenue, Brandon, MB
Food bank is still operating with modifications for social distancing. Open 12-4 pm for people needing an indoor space with limited-time entry (30 minutes at a time) to allow all patrons to access centre.
Are you dealing with domestic violence and need access to emergency housing?
Organizations providing emergency shelter and access to supports for those dealing with domestic violence.
Willow Place– Emergency Shelter in Winnipeg, providing access to support, counselling, referrals and shelter
Local number: 204-615-0311 (24/7 crisis line) | Toll-free number: 1-877-977-0007
A Woman’s Place – Organization operating out of Norwest Community Co-op providing assistance for women and children impacted by domestic violence with counselling and support, safety planning, protection orders, legal consults and representation. Interpreter services available to those who need it.
Local number: 204-940-6624 | Online or text chat available – for more information click HERE
Hours: Monday to Friday from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Men’s Resource Centre – Emergency Shelter for men and their children who are fleeing intimate partner domestic violence and/or abuse.
A & O: Safe Suite Initiative– this initiative provides temporary housing for men and women, 55 years or older, who are in need of a safe place to stay due to abuse or neglect and whose needs cannot be effectively met by existing abuse/crisis services.
Local number: 204-956-6440 | Toll-free number: 1-888-333-3121
BRANDON: Westman Women’s Shelter – an emergency shelter offering a short-term safe and supportive environment for physically, emotionally or sexually abused women and their children 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
Call the Domestic Violence Crisis Line for intake: 1-877-977-007
THE PAS: Aurora House –a small emergency shelter providing accommodation and or counselling to women and children dealing with domestic violence.
Local number: 204-623-7427
FLIN FLON: Women’s Resource Centre–a safe place where you can get emergency housing and food for you and your children. Also provides counselling, support and referral.
ShelterSafe– Use this tool to search for shelters near you. You are able to access information and contact numbers for a variety of shelters based on your geographical location. Provides information on availability for pets and children’s programming.
Chinese and Tigrinya translations of OHC’s final report “Stories of Newcomer Workers in Manitoba’s Food Processing Industry” are now available, based on interviews we conducted with 11 workers from the Chinese and Eritrean communities. The report details the migration and work stories of newcomer workers in this industry, as well as their concerns, hopes and dreams. OHC has made 21 recommendations in this report to improve the health and well-being of newcomer workers in the food processing industry.
This research was supported by a grant from the Research and Workplace Innovation Program of the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba.