FAQ – Owners & Operators

Last reviewed/updated: 8:35 a.m October 14, 2020

I own/operate a business/organization, what is my responsibility now that face coverings are mandatory?

As an owner/operator of a business or organization that is open, according to O. Reg. 364/20, you must ensure that any person in the indoor area of the premises or in a vehicle that is operating as part of the business or organization, wears a mask or face covering in a manner that completely covers their mouth, nose and chin during any period inside. To do this you must:

  • Post signage reminding everyone that face coverings are required upon entry.
  • Identify a process for reminding any person in the indoor area of the requirement.
  • Train staff to ensure a consistent approach for issuing reminders to patrons, guests, and customer.
  • Consider having a supply of masks on hand to provide to people who do not have a mask.

Is there anyone who is exempt from wearing a face covering?

  1. Reg. 364/20 indicates that a person will be exempt from wearing a face covering if they:
  • are a child who is younger than two years of age;
  • are attending a school or private school within the meaning of the Education Actthat is operated in accordance with a return to school direction issued by the Ministry of Education and approved by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health;
  • are attending a child care program at a place that is in compliance with the child care re-opening guidance issued by the Ministry of Education;
  • are receiving residential services and supports in a residence listed in the definition of “residential services and supports” in subsection 4 (2) of the Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act, 2008;
  • are in a correctional institution or in a custody and detention program for young persons in conflict with the law;
  • are performing or rehearsing in a film or television production or in a concert, artistic event, theatrical performance or other performance;
  • have a medical condition that inhibits their ability to wear a mask or face covering;
  • are unable to put on or remove their mask or face covering without the assistance of another person;
  • need to temporarily remove their mask or face covering while in the indoor area,
    • to receive services that require the removal of their mask or face covering,
    • to engage in an athletic or fitness activity,
    • to consume food or drink, or
    • as may be necessary for the purposes of health and safety;
  • being accommodated in accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005;
  • being reasonably accommodated in accordance with the Human Rights Code; or
  • perform work for the business or organization, is in an area that is not accessible to members of the public and is able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person while in the indoor area.

Do I need to ask for proof of exemption?

According to O. Reg. 364/20, it is not necessary for a person to provide proof of exemption from wearing a face covering. For staff, you are encouraged to follow appropriate occupational health and safety laws and regulations.

Lots of people are coming into our facility without a face covering. What can we do?

Reg. 364/20 does not require individuals to present evidence to prove that they are entitled to any of the exemptions outlined in the legislation. You are expected to ask individuals to wear a face covering and if they indicate they are exempt, it ends there. As a person responsible for an organization or business, we encourage you to have staff keep a log of this information, which will help demonstrate your due diligence for ensuring compliance with the legislation.

Can a business deny entry if a person does not wear a face covering?

Owners and operators of businesses or organizations with enclosed public spaces are encouraged to look for alternatives for those that are exempt from wearing a mask to still be able to receive their goods and services, such as making appointments, having special hours for shopping, or curbside pick-up. As an owner and operator, you have rights under the Trespass to Property Act. While you may be able to deny entry or service, Peterborough Public Health recommends that any business wishing to refuse service to customers without face coverings seek independent legal advice about their rights and obligations before taking any action.

How will the provincial mandatory face covering mandate get enforced?

Public Health Inspectors from Peterborough Public Health, as well as municipal by-law officers, local police officers, and the Ministry of Labour can enforce these requirements and will be actively following up on any complaint received about non-compliance with these requirements.  Any charges laid will be on the person responsible for the business or organization if they do not ensure that persons indoors are wearing a face covering.

Can a face covering be removed at any time?

Individuals are permitted the temporary removal of a face covering:

  • when necessary to receive services offered by the establishment/organization (including eating or drinking where dine-in services are allowed)
  • while actively engaging in an athletic or fitness activity including water-based activities
  • as is necessary for the purpose of health and safety
  • to be accommodated in accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
  • performs work for the organization in an area that is not accessible to the public AND when it is possible to maintain 2 metres of distance from others

Are staff allowed to temporarily remove their face covering to communicate with people who have a hearing impairment:

Some people who are deaf or hard of hearing rely on lip reading to help understand verbal messages, and face coverings may create a barrier. Employees should keep an open mind when communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, particularly when wearing a face covering, and let the person suggest their preferred way of communicating.

There may be situations where someone who is deaf or hard of hearing may require an employee to remove their face covering to speak to the customer. We remind anyone removing their mask or face covering to follow safe handling procedures and to keep a distance of 2 metres (6 feet) away from others.

Are the employees required to wear a face covering at all times?

Yes. Employees in any space where members of the public are permitted entry must wear a face covering at all times. However, if an employee is in a staff only area (completely inaccessible by members of the public) AND can maintain 2 metres distance from other staff at all times, then face coverings can be temporarily moved, but must be put back on when the employee moves about the office or other shared space.

Are employees required to wear a face covering if they are separated from the public by a physical barrier?

Yes, in any instance where an employee cannot maintain 2 metres physical distancing from another staff member or member of the public, even if there is a plexiglass barrier separating the two, a face covering must be worn. This requirement is in line with the Ontario COVID-19 Workplace Safety Guidance document that recommends multiple controls for workplaces, including engineering controls (i.e., barriers) AND administrative controls (i.e., face coverings).

Are face coverings required in a restaurant?

Yes, however, members of the public are permitted to temporarily remove their face covering where necessary for the purpose of receiving services such as eating or drinking. Patrons should keep their face coverings on until they are seated at a table, and wear face coverings any time they are moving through a shared space (to/from table, restroom, etc.).

Staff at dining establishments must always wear face coverings when in a public space (indoor dining areas, outdoor dining areas, payment areas) AND in any staff only space where physical distancing is a challenge (i.e., kitchen, dish cleaning area, etc.).

Are face coverings required in places of worship?

Yes. Everyone attending a place of worship, must wear a face covering the entire time that they are indoors – this includes the people leading the service, ceremony or rite.

The person leading service, ceremony or rite may remove their face covering if:

  1. They are in an area not accessible by the public (delineated and/or posted as such), AND
  2. They are physically distanced by at least 2m from everyone else, AND
  3. A face covering is put back on if they cannot maintain #1 or #2

Face coverings must be worn by people participating in ceremonies, rites, and services (i.e. bride and groom, bridal party, God parents, etc.).

Are face coverings required in gyms or other fitness establishments?

Yes, face coverings are required in the indoor portions of gyms and fitness establishments and should be used by patrons and staff, as frequently as can be tolerated. If an activity or exertion level does not allow for a face covering, members of the public are permitted to remove their face covering temporarily, but should put it on again when the strenuous activity is complete (for example: when stretching, travelling through shared space).

Both patrons and staff should wash their hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after removing a face covering. Physical distancing must continue to take place in shared indoor spaces such as gyms, and frequent hand washing should be encouraged.

Are face coverings mandatory in common areas of condominiums or apartment buildings?

Yes, face coverings are required in common areas of multi-unit dwellings (condominiums and/or apartment buildings). This includes: laundry room, mail room, parking garages, stairwells, hallways, elevators, and other similar spaces. Face coverings in these spaces are required by tenants, staff, custodians, contractors, caretakers, and anyone attending a social gathering in common area of the building.

Can I allow my staff to wear a plastic face shield as a face covering?

No, a face shield is not a substitute form of face covering. When you wear a plastic shield, you do not have a snug fit around your nose, chin, and mouth. A face shield may provide extra precaution for the wearer against droplets from another person, but serves as a form of eye protection, rather than a face covering. Droplets can still be inhaled around the shield. Respiratory droplets from the wearer can also escape around the sides of the face shield, which provides less protection to others. If you choose to wear a face shield, you should do it in combination with a cloth face covering. (Think about it like a car that has seatbelts AND airbags – both work together to protect the occupants of the car.)

Is a face shield a good alternative for someone who can’t wear a face covering?

Evidence shows that plastic face shields alone are NOT equivalent to wearing a face covering. It does not filter respiratory droplets and does not have a snug fit around the nose, mouth and chin. However, the Centre for Disease Control does support the use of face shields as a “better than nothing” solution to face coverings. At a minimum, the face shield should cover the sides of the face and extend below the chin.

Can I allow my staff to wear a clear plastic mouth shield a face covering?

No, clear plastic mouth shields are not a suitable form of face covering. Clear plastic mouth shields that rest on the chin and wrap around the sides of the face have significant gaps, particularly around the nose and at the top of the shield. They do not fit closely to the face which means that respiratory droplets can escape. Additionally, these shields cannot be cleaned and disinfected properly between uses.

Are neck gaiters or buffs a safe face covering?

No, neck gaiters or buffs are not considered to be a safe type of face coverings due to the limited evidence regarding their effectiveness. Additionally, the type of fabric/material used to produce the neck gaiter may render it to be ineffective. A proper face covering should have 2 or more layers of breathable fabric and have a snug fit around your mouth, nose, and chin with no gaps.

Where can I get more information about face coverings?

There is lots of great information and resources about face coverings on our Information for the Public: Mandatory Face Covering page.

Where can I get signage or resources to train my staff?

There is lots of great information, signage, and resources on our Information for Owners/Operators/Employers: Mandatory Face Covering page.

Where can I go if I have more questions?

If you have additional questions or concerns, you can contact Peterborough Public Health at (705) 743-1000 or email covid19@peterboroughpublichealth.ca for more information.