Staffing and Tenant Safety Control Measures
February 25, 2022
The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently altered the way we experience and perceive our environments, with new considerations taking priority in what we expect from property owners and managers. Public health guidelines and city bylaws have been issued and updated regularly throughout the province since the onset of the pandemic, regulating the required measures to be put in place by building operators to keep staff and residents safe. Some guidelines have been discontinued or made redundant as we have gained a better understanding of the virus and the most effective means of controlling it, but several more have become engrained in society as part of “the new normal”, and will likely be integrated into building functionality permanently to address transmission of all viruses and maintain a higher level of community health and wellbeing.
The pandemic has been especially hard on frontline workers facing many restrictions on how they would typically do their work, as well as an increased workload to ensure adequate safety measures are implemented and maintained. A number of measures for building staff that have persisted throughout the pandemic, and have been deemed effective in minimizing the risk of outbreaks, will likely be practiced in some form permanently. Some of these common measures for building staff are:
- Communicating current guidelines and protocols to all staff as updates are released or as risks or outbreaks are observed
- Communicating vital information and protocols to tenants as it becomes available, whether through tenant mail, posting notices in common areas and elevators, or delivering notices door to door
- Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks or face-shields in all common or residential areas, and using additional PPE such as shoe covers and gloves when entering residential units
- Maintaining access to hand sanitizer in common areas, or anywhere that staff or tenants regularly contact surfaces
- Using decals or similar products to visually guide staff and tenants on where to stand or queue, or how much space to leave between individuals
- An adequate supply of part-time casual or on-call contracted employees to ensure that buildings are not understaffed should employees fall ill or be required to self-isolate
- Self-monitoring for symptoms, temperature and screening checks at the start of shifts, and/or mandatory testing at regular intervals to limit the possibility of outbreaks in buildings
- Staggering shift start and end times to limit staff contact and ensure that service standards are maintained around the clock
- Not entering units wherever possible to minimize potential transmission between staff and tenants
Many tenants in multiunit residential buildings are now working from home, or attending school from home. While isolating at home can be an effective measure for protecting against transmission, a high number of residents living and interacting in such close proximity can be counterproductive should an outbreak occur. Guidelines for tenants that have effectively been in place across the province for more than a year, and will likely be kept in mind for years to come to address illness, include:
- Wearing masks or face-shields in all common areas, or anywhere that interaction might occur with other tenants or staff
- Using hand sanitizer before/after touching common contact surfaces
- Self-monitoring for symptoms and testing when necessary, and remaining in units as much as possible if symptomatic or tested positive
- Using automatic and remote access options wherever possible to reduce contact with common touch surfaces
- Reading communications delivered or posted in common areas about current guidelines and protocols
- Following established protocols throughout building, such as abiding by maximum capacities in elevators and leaving adequate space for social distancing between other tenants and staff members
- Limiting social gathering wherever possible to minimize the risk of potential outbreaks in buildings and the need for extensive contact tracing should an outbreak occur
Maintaining Records, Data, and Efficient Systems
Maintaining tenant contact records and any relevant accessibility or medical needs is also vital. This will help landlords to contact tenants about emerging situations, connect them to services as needed, and ensure protocols are communicated efficiently. When the pandemic first began in March 2020, many landlords and building managers sought to reach out to tenants about the emerging situation both to provide information and to ensure they receive any necessary assistance or support they might require. Unfortunately, many tenants provide their contact information when they first move into a new unit, but have no need or regular mandatory process for updating their contact and personal information beyond that. Many landlords found they had outdated contact information, or that a different form of contact information would be more efficient (i.e., rather than going door to door or calling each individual tenant, they could send out a building-wide newsletter via email, but only if they maintain emails for all tenants). Email and SMS contact will be much more efficient means of contacting all tenants, but will require a concerted data gathering/updating process to ensure all contact information is complete and up to date.
Partnering with community organizations and local agencies can be an effective strategy to bring products and services to tenants in a controlled way, rather than having each tenant travelling independently to numerous stores, clinics, and offices to obtain what they need. A local service could be used to bring tenants groceries for instance, so that instead of hundreds of interactions between tenants and the public at several local grocery stores, a handful of delivery staff can bring groceries to each tenant, sanitizing supplies and minimizing contact wherever possible. Health clinics, support services, and more can similarly be arranged in common rooms, with appropriate scheduling, social distancing, and sanitizing practices in place.
The City of Toronto has a regularly updated COVID-19 resource page for commercial and residential buildings, which is very thorough: .