Canada’s First COVID-19 Safety Ambassadors Help Local Businesses Reopen Safely
WATERLOO, Ontario, Canada - Local businesses in the Region of Waterloo are learning about new COVID-19 controls and best practices as part of a collaboration between the Region, local chambers of commerce and the global public health organization NSF. The new program – the first of its kind in Canada – is designed to minimize COVID-19 risks and enhance consumer confidence in local businesses that have been independently verified to meet Ontario’s COVID-19 requirements.
“As provincial restrictions lift and people start going out and exploring their communities more frequently, it’s essential for businesses and public institutions to continue appropriate COVID-19 safety controls,” said Paul Medeiros, Managing Director of Consulting and Technical Services for North America at NSF. “The worst of the pandemic may be behind us, but we are definitely not in the clear yet.”
NSF designed the program in collaboration with the Region of Waterloo and is training and staffing a team of at least 12 public health students from Ontario colleges and universities to serve as COVID-19 Safety Ambassadors. The ambassadors will provide educational materials and one-on-one guidance to at least 5,000 Waterloo businesses to help them better understand the COVID-19 risks and requirements based on the most recent provincial operating requirements. Businesses that have a successful visit and meet the requirements receive COVID-19 Safe window decal to recognize their participation in the program and provide peace of mind to employees and customers.
“Independent verification is an essential part of the program,” Medeiros said. “It’s one thing for a business to tell its customers that it is meeting the COVID-19 safety requirements, but it’s much more powerful and credible to have an independent public health organization review and approve its COVID-19 controls.”
“The Region of Waterloo is excited both about the partnership with NSF, and to be first community in Canada to roll out a program of this kind,” said Regional Chair Karen Redman. “Instilling customer confidence in our local businesses is crucial as we begin to focus on economic recovery, and we see this program helping with that.”
The new program in the Waterloo Region is similar to NSF’s ongoing collaboration with the State of Michigan on the Michigan Occupational Safety & Health Administration (MIOSHA) COVID-19 Workplace Safety Ambassador program. Since November 2020, NSF ambassadors have visited more than 4,000 Michigan workplaces on behalf of MIOSHA to provide education and guidance on the state’s COVID-19 prevention regulations.
Another valuable benefit of the program is the opportunity for coaching and gentle correction. Medeiros said NSF ambassadors frequently meet business owners and managers who think they are doing all the right things to minimize COVID-19 risks, but a brief visit can reveal opportunities for improvement.
“Sometimes business owners even discover they’ve been making a serious mistake all along, but our COVID-19 Safety Ambassadors can help them correct it,” Medeiros said. As an example, NSF ambassadors have found businesses using cleaning solutions and chemicals that are not appropriate for COVID-19 disinfection. “Everyone can benefit from an extra set of eyes checking their work.”
Learn more about NSF’s COVID-19 guidance and assurance services for states and municipalities.