As we all pull together to slow the COVID spread, there are some risks for business owners and occupiers to be mindful of:
1. What if I have an employee who has been exposed to the COVID virus or has returned from International Travel?
Failure to follow the government guidelines on quarantining that individual may result in legal liability if others are exposed to that individual and infected. This may include customers, visitors to your premises and other employees. The latest Alberta guidelines for self quarantine can be checked at this link:
2. What if I am aware that someone who has tested positive for COVID was on my company premises?
As a landlord or employer, you have a duty to keep your premises reasonably safe for visitors and to warn of foreseeable hazards. In the case of a known COVID exposure, liability will attach where the landlord or employer fails to take reasonable care to respond to that exposure. Reasonable response will depend on the specific facts and may include:
– temporary closure of all or part or the premises, -disinfection efforts; and
-clear and timely warnings to anyone who may be coming on to the premises.
Failure to take immediate steps to warn of a known risk of infection on your site may result in liability to any subsequent visitors who become infected or even to those who do not become infected but suffer mental anguish over the reasonable fear that they were exposed to the virus.
Note that with any such warning privacy considerations apply and specific names should NOT be released as part of a general warning. This could lead to its own liability risks. Legal advice should be obtained if you have had a potential exposure on your site.
All companies and occupiers should be taking extra care with cleaning, especially for touch points like door handles, buttons and shared equipment and should have a COVID policy in place. Once an actual COVID exposure is confirmed, timely warnings coupled with an appropriate quarantine, closure and/or disinfection response will be key to meeting your legal responsibilities.
WARNING; All cases are fact specific and the above is to provide some guidance on red flags to watch for. It should not be relied upon without obtaining legal advice specific to your situation. If you need assistance with developing or implementing a COVID policy, we can assist.