covid-19 health and safety guidelines


ACTRA Toronto
COVID-19 Return to Work

Best Practices Guideline



The Film and television industry health and safety during COVID-19 Guideline, prepared by the Section 21 Film and Television Health and Safety Advisory Committee has now been approved by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. ACTRA Toronto has prepared the following highlights for Performers. Please refer to the complete Ministry Guideline document for complete information.

ACTRA Toronto will require productions to adhere to the guideline and also to develop health & safety policies of their own. Productions are required to send a copy of their COVID-19 health and safety policy to ACTRA Toronto in advance of Performers providing services. Read ACTRA’s Reference Note for Engagers.

Knowledge is power. Know your rights and responsibilities under the law and under ACTRA’s contracts. Performers should not be asked to waive their rights to being insured. IF IN DOUBT, DON’T SIGN WAIVERS WITHOUT CONSULTING ACTRA. Read our FAQ for Performers (at the bottom of this page) for more tips on how to return to work safely and responsibly.

Click on any section to display/hide the relevant guidelines.

  • Productions should identify the management persons chiefly responsible for enforcing COVID-19 prevention/response and provide the contact information if workers have concerns.
  • To help stop the spread of COVID-19, everyone should comply with the requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and with associated regulations and public health directives issued by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
  • All workers should be provided and required to review the Guideline, and relevant production policies and protocols prior to commencing work.
  • All workers should be trained by a qualified person on the Guideline and Production safety policy, the proper use of personal protective equipment, disinfection techniques and handwashing/sanitization techniques.
  • Productions should consider the additional time and supports needed to carry out these duties.
    • Prevention methods in order of effectiveness:
    • Physical distancing
    • Physical barriers
    • Enhanced handwashing and personal hygiene
    • Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    • Reporting health concerns to employer and public health

  • Workers should be aware of the symptoms of COVID-19. COVID-19 can be spread person to person through close contact, including while at work.
  • Workers should self-screen before coming to work.
  • Workers should not attend the workplace if they are symptomatic or required to isolate due to a quarantine order or direction from public health.
  • Productions should have a procedure in place if someone symptomatic attends the workplace.
  • Workers who are symptomatic or is aware that someone in the workplace is symptomatic should report it to Production and notify their union.
  • Returning to work for previously symptomatic workers may require clearance from Production, health care providers, and the local public health unit.

  • Screening should take place before individuals are allowed entry into the workplace.
  • Individuals may be required to answer a health questionnaire.
  • Temperature testing with a contactless thermometer may be required in addition to the health questionnaire.
  • There should be a protocol to manage when individuals do not pass the screening.
  • There should be a system to identify persons who have passed the screening.
  • At the time of writing, the government of Ontario’s online self-assessment tool lists the following symptoms: Additional symptoms may be identified as we learn more about COVID-19.
    • Fever (feeling hot to the touch, a temperature of 37.8 degrees Celsius or higher)
    • Chills
    • Cough that’s new or worsening (continuous, more than usual)
    • Barking cough, making a whistling noise when breathing (croup)
    • Shortness of breath (out of breath, unable to breathe deeply)
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Runny nose (not related to seasonal allergies or other known causes or conditions)
    • Stuffy or congested nose (not related to seasonal allergies or other known causes or conditions)
    • Lost sense of taste or smell
    • Pink eye(conjunctivitis)
    • Headache that’s unusual or long lasting
    • Digestive issues (nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain)
    • Muscle aches
    • Extreme tiredness that is unusual (fatigue, lack of energy)
    • Falling down often
    • For young children and infants: sluggishness or lack of appetite
  • Workers who have symptoms related to COVID-19 should be sent home. The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other illnesses, like the cold and flu. Workers exhibiting any symptoms (regardless of whether the illness has been confirmed) are required to be sent home. Public Health Ontario has provided helpful guidance on self-monitoring and self-isolation.
  • In addition, employers should advise these workers to complete the online self-assessment or call either:
    • Telehealth: 1-866-797-0000
    • Their primary care provider (for example, family physician)

  • Handwashing or sanitizing stations should be available.
  • Remote auditions are highly encouraged.
  • If absolutely required, in-person auditions should avoid open calls and “go-sees”.
  • In-person auditions must allow for physical distancing through a variety of means:
    • Scheduling longer times between auditions to avoid congestion
    • Reducing the number of people in the audition room
    • Asking performers to wait outside (e.g. In their vehicle) until called to come inside
    • Ensuring waiting spaces are large enough to allow for physical distancing
  • Reduced physical paperwork, more digital paperwork
  • No shared paper sides
  • Disinfecting any surfaces or props touched by a performer between auditions

  • Rehearsals and table reads should be done remotely if possible.
  • If remote rehearsals and table reads are not possible, physical distancing and the prevention methods listed above should be utilized to ensure performer health & safety.

    For further information, see the Best Practices – Voice Studios page.

  • Voice recording should be done remotely if possible.
  • Producers should consider supplying disinfected recording kits to performers to assist with remote recordings.
  • If remote voice recordings are not possible, physical distancing and the prevention methods listed above should be utilized to ensure performer health & safety.
  • Avoid any group recording sessions, if possible.
  • Disinfect all surfaces and equipment performers come into contact with before and after each session.
  • Allow performers to bring their own headphones.

  • Divide workers (e.g. cast and crew) into pods with processes as to how to access, and who will access, the different areas.
  • Limit the sets and offices to essential personnel only – for example, implementing “closed-set” rules.
  • Avoid or limit large crowd scenes.
  • Use boom microphones instead of LAV microphones.
  • Wherever possible, have performers perform tasks that would usually require a worker to be closer than 2 metres from the performer – for example, instructing performers how, and allowing them, to wire themselves for sound/put on their own LAV microphones.
  • Provide single-occupancy dressing rooms.
  • Performers should be directed while maintaining physical distance of at least 2 metres. Avoid touching or physically moving performers into position.
  • Provide background holding and change areas that allow for physical distancing, including arranging for background holding to be outdoors, if possible (and weather permitting).
  • Require any individuals who interact with a performer at a distance of less than 2 metres to wear a mask and face shield and wash/sanitize hands.
  • Where performers agree to touch one another during a scene, performers must wash or sanitize their hands immediately before and after each take.
  • Limit the repetition of physical touching, as much as possible.
  • Permit the performer handling a prop to reset the prop between takes.
  • Provide sufficient washroom facilities, handwashing/sanitizing stations, receptacles for disposable personal protective equipment, etc., for the number of workers, and work that will be performed, on the site.

  • Allocate time to adequately clean and disinfect stunt equipment.
  • Require any individuals who interact with a performer at a distance of less than 2 metres to wear a mask and face shield and wash/sanitize hands.
  • Where performers agree to touch one another during a scene, performers must wash or sanitize their hands immediately before and after each take.
  • Limit the repetition of physical touching, as much as possible.

  • Extra care and consideration should be given when child performers and their parents/guardians will be on set.
  • Interaction between child performers and others should be limited as much as possible.
  • If possible, a separate holding area should be provided for child performers.
  • Virtual/remote tutoring should be considered.
  • When possible, tutoring locations should not be used for other purposes. Tutoring locations should be appropriately disinfected in between each use.
  • Minimal styling will be provided for child performers.

  • Handwashing or sanitizing stations should be available in or close to food service areas.
  • All individuals should wash their hands before and after entering.
  • Physical distancing should be maintained. Measures may include staggered mealtimes, floor markings, and different eating areas.
  • Foods should be individually packaged.
  • Bring food and a water bottle from home if possible, there may not be food offered on some sets.
  • All individuals should put their garbage directly into bins and not leave it for others to clean up.
  • Access to craft truck for food servers only
  • Disposable plates, bowls, etc. and individually packaged cutlery should be used.

  • Protocols will be in place to maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres within hair, make-up and wardrobe facilities, as possible. Such protocols may include:
    • Establishing and posting a maximum number of individuals who may be present in a trailer or change area
    • Limiting the number of performers that may be in a space receiving styling at a time
    • Placing workstations at least 2 metres apart
    • Scheduling make-up tests and fittings to avoid overlap/congestion
  • Adequately vent all work areas.
  • No eating or drinking in the hair/make-up/wardrobe area when work is being done on performers.
  • Handwashing or sanitizing stations should be available in or close to hair/make-up/wardrobe areas.
  • Stylists working on performers should wash or sanitize their hands before and after working on a performer.
  • Some performers may be requested to do their own hair/make-up/touch-ups while being directed, from a distance, by a stylist/artist.
  • Have separate supplies (e.g. make-up, applicators, brushes, hair pins, etc.) for each individual cast member and store these supplies in separately marked bags.
  • Avoid sharing make-up between performers.
  • Use disposable applicators, brushes, etc., when possible.
  • Mix make-up on disposable palettes, when possible.
  • De-pot make-up, where possible.
  • Provide disposable single-use chair covers for each performer.
  • Disinfect wardrobe items regularly, for example, before/after each use and before/after being placed in storage.
  • Bag costumes separately by performer.
  • Have separate wardrobe pieces for stunt performers, doubles.
  • Utilize underdressed second skin costumes to limit direct contact with wardrobe pieces.

  • Masks should be worn in vehicles when multiple individuals are present, even if physical distancing can be maintained.
  • Provide hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies in all passenger vehicles where individuals will be seated.
  • Keep the windows down in the vehicle, weather permitting, to improve air circulation.
  • No eating or drinking in passenger vehicles any time that a passenger is present.
  • All items that a passenger brings into a vehicle, including any garbage, should be removed by that individual, and not left for the driver, or anyone else, to clean up.
  • Regularly disinfect all frequent touchpoints such as door handles and window buttons.
  • Disposable seat covers should be available in passenger vehicles and individuals must dispose of their own seat cover.
  • All vehicles will be thoroughly disinfected at the start or end of each day.

Consult the ACTRA Toronto website for the most up to date information on COVID-19. Performers are also encouraged to review the Film and Television Industry Health and Safety During COVID-19 Guideline prepared by Section 21 Film and Television Health and Safety Advisory Committee. The guideline was developed together with the other guilds, unions, film, television and commercial producers and then approved and published by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. As part of the Ministry’s approval process, the guideline was reviewed by medical, legal and public health officials. ACTRA Toronto will require productions to adhere to the guideline as well as develop health and safety policies of their own.

Employers must take every reasonable precaution to protect workers from workplace hazards. Productions are required to send a copy of their COVID-19 health and safety policy to ACTRA Toronto in advance of Performers providing services.

Public health advises that physical distancing is one of the primary methods of protecting workers. As a result, Performers can expect measures to minimize contact such as remote auditions and casting, virtual meetings, fewer people on set, floor markings and designated spaces, staggered schedules and breaks, and self-drives. Performers may be asked to apply their own makeup, dress and mic themselves, move their own props, and dispose of their garbage. When physical distancing is not possible, productions must use barriers and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) like masks and gloves.

Proper handwashing or sanitizing, and the cleaning and disinfection of materials, surfaces and equipment are key prevention strategies. These measures can include handwashing and sanitizing stations, frequent and intensive cleaning procedures, ventilation of studios, vehicles and other confined spaces, use of disposable brushes and applicators, individually wrapped foods, and protocols that will reduce contact on surfaces such documents, costumes, props, sets, mics and equipment.

Dressing Rooms

There is no automatic entitlement to private dressing rooms/trailers defined in the IPA or in the recently released Provincial Guidelines relating to COVID-19. For convenience, excerpts of the relevant language are provided below.

  • Per A2001 (b) of the IPA [emphasis added], “The Producer shall, where possible, provide for the exclusive use of Performers clean and comfortable facilities (such as dressing rooms in studios and either trailers or Winnebagos on location) with reasonable temperature, adequate amount of space, and an easily accessible smoke-free area.
  • The Provincial Guidelines relating to COVID-19 state [emphasis added] “You should have protocols in place to permit performers to maintain physical distance from other performers and from other workers, whenever possible. Considerations for such protocols may include: providing single-occupancy dressing rooms.

Productions are required to have a COVID-19 health and safety policy and provide training to workers. ACTRA Toronto will also outreach to members by hosting town halls, updating our website, and developing other resource materials. While ACTRA Toronto can provide information generally about health and safety on returning to work, it remains the responsibility of employers to train Performers on the protocols in the specific workplace.

Mandatory training

  • An employer can make COVID training be mandatory as a condition of employment.
  • Examples include Safe Sets International, Panno, The Film & Television Health and Safety School & WSPS.
  • SSI, Panno and FTHSS are all private companies based in Toronto with no governmental ties or certification.
  • WSPS (Workplace Safety & Prevention Services) has ties to the Ontario Government and has existed since 1917.
  • Members should read the Terms of Service & Privacy Policies to ensure they understand how their information is used by private business.

Productions are required to obtain workers compensation insurance coverage or its equivalent and provide proof on request. Performers should not be asked to waive their rights to being insured. ACTRA Toronto is working with agents and monitoring the situation. If you are asked to sign a waiver or mistakenly signed one, notify ACTRA and provide a copy of the document. If you are or suspect you are working without insurance, contact ACTRA immediately.

Public health is directing that screening should take place to assess the health and wellness of individuals before entry into the workplace. It is anticipated that workers will be asked to answer a questionnaire. Temperature testing with a contactless thermometer is also possible in addition to the questionnaire. Other forms of testing are currently not available in Ontario. ACTRA Toronto is monitoring the issue considering the requirements set out by public health and government authorities, with a view to protecting member safety, privacy, human rights and other relevant considerations.

Medical Questionnaires

  • Medical questionnaires are allowable in Ontario after employment has been accepted. They cannot be used prior to an offer & acceptance of employment.
  • An employer may decide, based on the advice from an insurance company, to release a performer from their contract. This would require full payment of the contract per the IPA.
  • Medical questionnaires are used to determine production insurance premiums, not accident & injury insurance coverage.

COVID-19 assessment questions

  • Much like the medical questionnaire, an employer cannot ask you the questions on the Ontario COVID assessment form until there is an offer and acceptance in place.
  • These questions will likely be asked every time you enter the set.

COVID-19 testing

  • Testing can only be done after an offer and acceptance of employment.
  • There is no legal impediment to a requirement for medical testing as part of a package of occupational health and safety measures that is appropriately tailored to the individual workplace and to changing circumstances.
  • Any medical testing carried out must use Health Canada approved methods and should be consistent with applicable Public Health Ontario guidelines.
  • Any testing program would need to be designed with privacy principles in mind, in particular:
    • testing should be carried out using an appropriately drafted consent form setting out, at a minimum, the purposes for which the information is being collected and who will have access to it;
    • test results must be used solely for the stated purpose of collection and not for eligibility of employment;
    • test results should be maintained securely, and only for as long as necessary to meet the objective;
    • there is no legal bar on cross-border transfer of tests or test results, however, the transferor would be obliged to ensure that the receiving entity and jurisdiction handle the information consistent with Canadian privacy law; and,
    • test results should be made available as narrowly as possible and only as required in order to meet the legitimate objective.

ACTRA’s agreements and Ontario’s Human Rights Code protects Performers from discrimination and harassment. ACTRA Toronto has and will continue to communicate to Productions that decisions concerning work opportunities and fitness to work must not be based on racism, ageism, ableism or other stereotypes. We will continue to support Productions in casting Performers in roles that reflect the composition of Canadian society.

Productions requiring Performers to self-isolate are required to comply with all the fees and terms in ACTRA’s agreement. Productions cannot require Performers to be compensated at rates, terms, or subject to working conditions that are less favourable. If you are asked to self-quarantine without pay in advance of your engagement, restricted from taking other work, or sent home due to a suspected illness or COVID-19 exposure, speak with your agent or contact ACTRA Toronto.

The Production’s COVID-19 health and safety policy will have a procedure for what happens when a worker tests positive for COVID-19. This is also addressed in the Film and Television Industry Health and Safety During COVID-19 Guideline. Under ACTRA’s agreement, Productions are required to notify ACTRA as soon as possible of any accident, incident or injury concerning a Performer and file an incident report within one (1) business day. This includes when a Performer becomes ill or is at risk of COVID-19 exposure from the workplace.

Immediate counselling and support are available 24/7 at HAVEN Helpline 1-855-201-7823. None of us can anticipate how we might feel while living and attempting to work during a global pandemic. Anxiety over health concerns is real. If you feel you may be unable to fulfil your engagement, speak to your agent or contact ACTRA Toronto.

Productions are responsible for ensuring a safe work environment. Safety concerns should first be reported to the Production:

  • If your concerns are related to COVID-19, there will be a designated person responsible for enforcing the production’s COVID-19 health and safety policy. Check the call sheet for their contact information.
  • If your issue concerns an intimate scene, assistance may be available from the intimacy coordinator if one has been engaged by the production.
  • If this is an emergency, you have the right to refuse unsafe work. The Occupational Health and Safety Act gives workers the right to refuse work that they believe is unsafe to themselves or others. Workers who believe they are endangered by workplace violence may also refuse work. The specific procedure to follow in order to establish a work refusal may be found here.

You can also contact ACTRA at the following:

  • During office hours – 416-928-2278 or (toll-free) 1-877-913-2278
  • 24/7 at HAVEN Helpline1-855-201-7823
  • Non-emergency afterhours –

You are required by law to adhere to the measures adopted by government and public health authorities. The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires workers to work in compliance with the Act, and not conduct themselves in a manner that could endanger themselves or others. Under ACTRA’s agreements, Constitution and By-laws, you are required to maintain professional conduct which includes not engaging in behaviours that endanger other members, jeopardizes the Production or brings the profession into disrepute. If you are concerned that a specific measure is contrary to ACTRA’s agreements, your rights under the Human Rights Code or at law, raise your concerns with production, your agent or ACTRA Toronto.

During the global pandemic, there have been reports of increased harassment and violence against workers, especially when they are attempting to enforce safety measures in their workplace. These are stressful circumstances for everyone. Please be kind, patient and respectful of others.

 COVID-19 and Ontario’s Human Rights Code – Questions and Answers

Updated August 11, 2020

The OHRC has developed a series of questions and answers for understanding your human rights and obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These questions and answers cover the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees, tenants and landlords, as well as residential institutions.

[Disclaimer: The answers to the questions posed do not constitute legal advice. The OHRC continues to monitor the evolving situation and will update or add to these questions and answers on an ongoing basis as needed.]

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