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Q&A: What should I do if an employee has COVID-19?



Q: What should I do if an employee has COVID-19?

A: COVID-19 constitutes a workplace hazard under the Canada Labour Code, which means employers are responsible for the occupational health and safety of their employees. In turn, employers have an obligation to investigate and report confirmed cases of COVID-19 in order to prevent the recurrence of exposure.

It’s important to move quickly to mitigate spread.

  1. Mandate all employees to download the COVID-19 tracking app. 
  2. Instruct employees who have symptoms to stay home from work and get tested.
  3. In larger chains, managers should seek direction from the HR team if an employee is ill and subsequently tests positive for COVID-19.
  4. Independent operators are advised to consult local public health authorities to report and obtain guidance on next steps.
  5. If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers may be told to inform fellow employees of their possible exposure, but maintain confidentiality.
  6. Ask all employees to monitor for symptoms.
  7. Public health may instruct employers to also notify affected customers, visitors, and vendors and instruct those employees who came into direct contact with the sick employee to self-isolate for 14 days.
  8. It’s important to keep those you’ve informed up to date if information changes. 
  9. Conduct enhanced cleaning and disinfection after an employee (or customer) suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 has been in your store. 
  10. Remind those who test positive to report via the COVID-19 tracking tool.

The rules are constantly evolving and can differ from region to region.

Access these additional Federal Guidelines for the latest information and to answer detailed questions about COVID-19 in the workplace. 



Toronto to publicly report more data on workplace COVID-19 outbreaks

What do employers need to know?

The City of Toronto will publicly share more information about COVID-19 outbreaks in workplaces in a bid to encourage employers to take greater precautions during the pandemic.

The measure was announced Monday along with stricter guidelines for employers reporting cases among their staff.

“We know the fight is far from over and spread is happening in workplaces,” Mayor John Tory said.

“I believe this kind of transparency and public accountability will help to encourage employers to do everything they can to protect their workers and it will help give everyone a better indication of where the COVID-19 virus is spreading in our community.”

City officials reported 974 new COVID-19 infections in Toronto on Monday.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said the data on workplace outbreaks will be updated weekly and broken down by workplace type.

It won’t compromise individuals’ privacy, though de Villa noted that privacy concerns may limit the amount of detail the city can provide in some situations.

Criteria for disclosing data on an outbreak includes the portion of infected staff, duration of the outbreak and whether the setting is large enough to mitigate privacy concerns.

De Villa said businesses must immediately notify public health when they become aware of two or more infected employees, designate a contact person to correspond with public health, and implement all recommended measures.

Employers must also ensure that employees are aware of the benefits available to them if they are unable to work due to COVID-19.

Toronto employers were to be notified of the changes in a letter from de Villa dated Monday.

De Villa said the city is anticipating good compliance.

“We are expecting that businesses will comply of their own accord,” she said. “It just makes good sense for business to have healthy employees and healthy workers.”

Tory also repeated calls Monday for the federal and provincial governments to introduce some form of universal paid sick leave.

The mayor and his counterparts in other major Ontario cities have called for the policy, saying some workers may avoid taking COVID-19 tests out of fear of potential lost income.

“I think it’s past time that we had action on that,” Tory said.


How to get customers to comply with COVID-19 safety measures



Since spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way most people live throughout the world and directly impacted retailers and the way they operate – especially those deemed essential, such as convenience stores. Safety measures including social distancing, hand sanitizing and mask mandates have become a part of everyday living for both customers and store employees, and c-stores around the world have adopted these policies to keep everyone safe.

Not all customers, however, are happy to comply with such mandates and measures. As a result, retailers have been left to find ways of enforcing pandemic policies at their locations. Among the methods being utilized are employee training, store signage, store layout changes, increasing labor, and even offering free masks to customers who come in without one.

If an employee is not trained in hostility management or de-escalation techniques, they will be ill-prepared to confront such customers and many will defer to the store manager, who without training may not be prepared either, said Oscar Villanueva, managing director of security services at R3 Continuum, based in Minneapolis, Minn., which focuses on crisis response, mitigation and management.

“There have been news stories about an employee getting an arm broken in Target over a confrontation with a customer, and in Bed Bath and Beyond, the employee got a manager but ended up punching a woman in the face,” he said, explaining that incidents like this can be avoided with training and a well-defined plan from the corporate level.

He believes clearly defined company policies outlined and communicated from the corporate level are key and says it would be helpful for managers and supervisors to get high-level training on hostility management and de-escalation techniques, while employees should receive some type of awareness training.

Villanueva shared the following recommendations to manage hostility and de-escalate confrontational situations with customers:

Recommendations for store-level employees and managers:

  • Communicate your concerns professionally (remember that what the customer says or does is not personal).
  • Reference the safety needs of both parties.
  • Work to understand the customer’s position and show empathy.
  • Ask for the customer’s help in resolving the issue.
  • Present alternatives for resolving the issue.
  • If all else fails, seek assistance from a manager
  • If unable to resolve the situation and there is imminent danger, call security or the police for assistance.

Recommendations for the corporate level:

  • Create a policy addressing mask-wearing and social distancing for both employees and customers.
  • Communicate the policy via signage for customers and via internal communications for employees.
  • Ensure that employees adhere to the policy and lead by example.
  • Have contingency plans/procedures in case the policy is not followed (i.e., seeking security and law enforcement assistance, if necessary).
  • Provide training on hostility management and de-escalation techniques to both employees and managers.

When encountering a customer who refuses to comply, the way the person is approached is important to how the conversation or confrontation may go, according to Russ Turner, director of People Incorporated’s Training Institute, based in Eagan, Minn.

“The main thing is to approach people as if you are allies and assume a positive intent,” he explained. “If they don’t have a mask, they probably forgot it in the car and are not used to wearing it yet. Assuming positive intent will help the employee be less reactive.”

When asking for compliance, using a connector phrase — “Thanks for coming in” or “Good to see you” or “We are happy you are here” — can disarm people and establish a connection before an employee asks for compliance on something. And it’s important for it to be an “ask,” not a “tell,” Turner advised.

“Use polite language like ‘would you please’ or ‘could you’ or ‘would you be willing to,’ and mention if there is a mandate in the state. Like here in Minnesota, we have a state mask mandate,” he said. “Also, it’s good to give people an out like, ‘Hey, it looks like you may have left your mask in the car,’ or ‘It looks like you have forgotten your mask; here, you can grab one of these,’ rather than, ‘Sir, where is your mask?’”

When it comes to social distancing, floor decals, roping off certain areas to guide a line, and other signage can help customer compliance tremendously, specifically because it helps them visualize what needs to be followed, noted Perry Kuklin, director of marketing for Lavi Industries, a company based in Valencia, Calif., that helps retailers with queue management and customer-flow equipment and technology.

“It’s important to make sure people can visualize and understand what 6 feet apart is, whether it’s a retractable belt for every 6 feet with a sign that says, ‘Please stand behind this sign,’ or floor stickers. It really helps,” Kuklin said, adding that with c-stores sometimes short on space, forming a single-line queue and even adding acrylic partitions to keep other customers from walking too close can be helpful.

It’s important to have signage that communicates exactly what the expectations are, Villanueva said, and to make sure signs are posted clearly outside the store before a customer even enters. The signs should be large enough that customers can’t miss them.

“If you don’t communicate to clients as they are coming in, then you risk them saying they didn’t see a sign,” he said.

Originally published by Convenience Store News. 

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Stepping-up for safety

Wash and fuel sectors look outside the box

Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 2.06.50 PMCOVID-19 has created trying times. Both wash operators and manufacturers have pivoted to create service and product innovation amid these challenges.

A good example is ISTOBAL, a leading manufacturer of car wash equipment with a presence in 78 countries. This company has reinvented uses for its automatic wash arches that are now being used to disinfect the personal protective equipment (PPE) and vehicles of health, security and emergency personnel combatting coronavirus/COVID-19.

The company reports that over two weeks it adapted its chemical application technology that has been in use in car washes around the world. This arch adaptation, first in use in Spain’s battle with COVID-19, now disinfect personnel, vehicles and gear in just 15 seconds.

The company’s equipment can be installed near main accesses, quarantine areas, operating rooms, ICUs and other points. With a capacity to disinfect more than 4,000 people with PPE a day, these arches measure two meters in height and are made up of eight sprinklers that spray a disinfectant product on the PPE of health and safety and emergency forces and are automatically activated in its path thanks to a photocell detection system that activates the sprinklers.

ISTOBAL is also producing arches for the external disinfection of medical vehicles such as ambulances and fleets of the security forces with an average disinfection capacity of about 1,000 vehicles per day. This system is designed to spray vehicles with a biocide.

In the face of some operators turning away truckers and others during this public health emergency, Shell has stepped up to show its support of drivers and frontline workers. In more than 15,000 participating retail sites across 30 countries, Shell will be providing free food and warm beverages to healthcare professionals, such as EMTs, nurses and doctors. “As a small thank you for all you are doing for our communities, we invite Canadian healthcare professionals to stop into any participating Shell gas station. All you need to bring is your medical ID and we will provide a free sandwich and warm beverage to keep you fuelled throughout your day,” says Andrea Brecka, general manager Retail, Shell Canada.

The petroleum company also announced that not only will its sites offer free sandwiches and beverages to medical crews as well as commercial drivers such as couriers, long haul and grocery and fuel delivery drivers as well as others. Drivers only need to be uniformed with a company truck.

At Petro-Canada’s 1,500 + sites operations offer plexiglass shields at cash, social distancing prompts and stations are disinfecting all internal surfaces, such as the pay-point, door handles and washrooms every two hours or more. Surfaces outside, such as pumps squeegees, vacuums and air pumps are cleaned multiple times a day.

Suncor spokesperson Nicole Fisher tells OCTANE that Petro-Canada sites are being made as clean and safe as possible. She reports stations are:

  • placing indicators on store floors to ensure people remain at a safe distance from one another
  • installing plexiglass shields at the main pay counters
  • limiting the number of customers in each of our larger stores
  • increasing cleaning and sanitizing procedures
  • reducing contact points, including closing all fountain pop and slush machines

The Chamois Car Wash and Detail Centre, a three-site business located in Winnipeg is offering a full interior sanitizing service. The wash group offers both automated tunnels and full detailing packages in its normal menu. Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, Chamois closed its standard interior service and runs only its automated lines where customers must remain in their cars. Groups such as taxi operators and first responders and others told them people were looking for safer virus-free vehicle interiors.

Chamois turned to their expertise to create a service that had to be safe for employees. At their wash sites, they bath the interior with a liquid germicide that is allowed to sit for a full 10 minutes. Then a single staffer can enter safely to wipe off the residue and perform a deep clean on the interior. The service takes about 45 minutes and costs customers $49 for cars and $59 for vans. The service includes their best-selling Gold wash package.

 Originally published in the May/June issue of OCTANE.

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McCowan’s hand sanitizing stations help operators safeguard staff and customers

Screen Shot 2020-06-05 at 3.52.25 PMIn an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, hand sanitizing stations are a must-have for c-store, gas and car wash sites.

From freestanding to wall- or counter-mounted stations, McCowan offers a variety of affordable designs and solutions to help keep your staff and customers safe.

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Please contact us at:



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Sinclair Cleaning Systems: Combat COVID-19 with a proven cleaning and disinfecting combo


Optima Steamer XD

Clean, disinfect and knock-out viruses with the one-two punch of dry vapour steam and an EPA-approved botanical disinfectant.

In order to properly clean and disinfect, even tiny nooks and crannies, Sinclair Cleaning Systems recommends the Optima Steamer XD in conjunction with Concrobium Disinfectant Cleaner II. The two work together to offer an effective cleaning and disinfection strategy that both sanitizes and deodorizes.

Ideal for many uses, from general retail cleaning to foodservice and automotive detailing for fleets, it’s the perfect combination to help protect your staff and customers.

unnamedConcrobium Disinfectant Cleaner II is next-generation botanical disinfection technology that safely and effectively eliminates viruses and bacteria.

The Optima Steamer, which reaches a temperature of 275°F at the sprayer tip, even cleans and sterilizes hard to reach areas. This next-level steamer uses the latest technology to remove stains, grease, dirt and odours in a quick and efficient manner, all while generating no waste water run-off.

Steam is proven to be safe for a variety of surfaces, including upholstery, vehicle interiors and exteriors, and floors, as well as other non-porous surfaces – indoors or out.

Contact Hugh Sinclair TODAY at:

1-800-265-0505 or 1-519-436-9539

For more information, visit Sinclair Cleaning Systems



COVID-19: 5 ways to safeguard workers and customers



Cleanliness is next to godliness, especially in the face of this COVID-19 pandemic. C-stores, gas stations and car washes can do their part to help keep the population healthy with a few simple steps.

1 – Talk to staff about the seriousness of the situation and the need to take special efforts to safeguard both workers and customers. Health authorities indicate the virus can live on surfaces for a few hours and up to several days.

2 – Have cleaning solutions and tools ready. According to Public Health Ontario ( many commonly used cleaners and disinfectants are effective against COVID-19. Use only disinfectants that have a Drug Identification Number (DIN) and follow manufacturers’ instructions.

3 – Establish a cleaning routine and follow it. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least twice per day. These include dispenser nozzles, payment buttons, squeegee handles, fuel selector switches and trash receptacles. Pay attention to door handles and light switches to the c-store and wipe all counters and cooler doors with a disinfectant. Bathrooms need to be a constant focus and all surfaces need to be disinfected repeatedly throughout the day. Wipe and clean all vending systems as well.

4 – Staff safety is important. Make sure crews have disposable latex gloves if they are detailing cars and discuss the importance of keeping hands away from faces. Gloves should be discarded into a lined receptacle after each vehicle is cleaned. If reusable gloves are used make sure they are only used for a specific task.

5 – Know your cleaning products.

Cleaners: These break down grease and remove organic material from the surface. Cleaners can be used separately before using disinfectants and can be purchased with cleaner and disinfectant combined in a single product.

Disinfectants: These have chemicals that kill most germs and are typically used after surfaces have been cleaned. These have a Drug Identification Number (DIN).

Disinfectant wipes: These have combined cleaners and disinfectants in one solution. Disinfectant wipes may become dry due to fast-drying properties and should be discarded if they become dry and are not recommended for heavily soiled surfaces.

Bleach solution: 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per five litres of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per litre of water.

RELATED READ: Prevention training video for operators and staff

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8 key focus areas for improving fuel site safety

Filling Gas Tank_Sm_070218Gas stations are dangerous places. Consider that in the U.S. close to 30 forecourt workers are killed on the job each year. Another 2.3% of workers are injured with about one percent requiring retraining or a transfer due to the severity of injury. Are you paying attention to the hazards at your site?

According to National Energy Equipment’s national health, safety and environment specialist Michael Lamont, the leading hazard for workers is vehicles and pedestrian traffic at forecourt. “People are often distracted and not paying attention when they drive in to fuel. When our crews are working on equipment, there is a real hazard to their safety. To mitigate this our teams are knowledgeable in Petroleum Oriented Safety Training (POST) ( and they place pylons, flags, barriers and service vehicles per standard to protect staff,” he says, noting that POST is an industry- led program that offers online courses and annual get-togethers such as safety forums at the Convenience U CARWACS Show.

The Canadian Fuels Association is on top of safety and in 2019 commissioned a study (“Risk Associated with Cell Phone Use During Refuelling”) that discovered the chance of starting a fire at the pumps with a cellphone is less than one in 10 billion. The far greater safety risk is mobile device distraction where phone use increases the risk of spills and other pump-side incidents. And, while the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) permits cellphone use for pay-at-pump applications, they caution about the need for customer focus during refuelling. They advise operators to interrupt fuelling should they observe a customer calling or texting while at the dispenser.

Lamont suggests good safety practice often comes down to training. “Do your staff know the size of the storage tanks? Do they know where to locate the vapour recovery? Are they clearing away ice from fills? Do they know what to do in the event of a spill or tank leak? When do you hit the ‘E Stop’ button? Training prepares staff for worst case scenarios and helps keep them and customers safe,” he says.

Rob Hoffman, director, government and stakeholder relations with the Canadian Fuels Association, agrees with Lamont. He suggests that alongside training protocols, engineered controls such as state-of-the-art dispenser design and technology greatly reduce the risk associated with the flammable nature of fuels. “Incidents at the pumps are very rare today thanks to continuous improvements from the industry.” However, he concludes, “distracted behaviour from customers is still the leading source of concern when it comes to safety on site. For best practice to occur, customers need to be more aware and staff need to be aware of customers and how they may act.”

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8 key areas for safety focus

  1. Fuel Storage

Fuel storage poses several risks. These include fire/explosion, environmental damage and health concerns.

*Ensure staff are adequately trained (keep all training records).

*Maintain and monitor storage tanks and dispensers.

*Identify hazardous areas and control all sources of ignition – placard site with appropriate warning and hazard signs.

 2. Vehicle Movement

Cars and vehicles pose a considerable hazard to forecourt personnel and customers as well as create the opportunity for equipment damage through collision.

*Design a safe system of traffic movement such as a one-way system for entering and exiting the forecourt and clearly sign it.

*Offer a designated parking area close to the c-store and away from the fuel dispensers.

*Create a barrier to protect structures such as fuel tanks and liquified petroleum gas (LPG) storage areas. 

3. Hazardous Substances

Car wash and commercial cleaning products can be harmful if staff are incorrectly exposed though spillage or leaking containers. These can lead to respiratory problems, serious skin irritations or chemical burns.

*Store hazardous products such as chemicals in their original containers.

*Obtainand keep on hand manufacturer hazard data sheet information on all substances stored and used on the premises.

*Train staff and provide appropriate protective clothing.

4. Manual Handling

Access covers to storage tanks; LPG cylinders and large cleaning fluid containers are heavy. Moving these may cause injury if staff are not trained to see the hazard.

*Train staff in proper lifting techniques.

*Provide suitable equipment such as lifts for removing access covers and hand trucks.

*Eliminate all unnecessary manual handling.

5. Slips and Trips

Fuel and oil spillage at forecourt can create slip hazards for both customers and staff. Winter ice and snow are another threat that can see people tumble or cars slide into dispensers.

*Use an industrial salt mixed with fine gravel or sand to spread on the forecourt during icy conditions.

*Absorb and clean up any fuel or oil spill.

*Train staff on how to deal with minor fuel spillages.

6. Electricity

Poorly maintained equipment and shoddy system installs increase the risk of electrical accidents in an environment where there are both power and wet conditions.

*Make certain all electrical equipment used out of doors is suitably insulated.

*All electrical controlling machinery should be clearly labelled and easily accessible.

*Check that the installation of electrical equipment (especially for car wash) is suitable for a wet environment and has adequate protection from mechanical damage.

*Make certain there is a readily accessible emergency stop button to halt car wash operation.

7. Fire 

Fueling sites are filled with potential fire hazards. It’s important to keep escape routes clear.

*Remove any obstructions at exits.

*Have regular checks to ensure that compliance is occurring.

*Have trash and waste cleared regularly and hazardous materials removed only by a certified waste disposal firm.

 8. Violence to Staff

Robberies and drive-offs are a considerable hazard to staff.

*Get involved with local police programs and investigate national best practices.

*Consider the use of closed-circuit television, panic alarms and other security measures.

            *Develop a robbery or drive-off procedure in the safety manual and drill staff to make sure they follow through.

 Originally published in the May/June issue of Octane. 


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