Guidance for passengers and workers in the rail sector to limit the spread of COVID-19


To provide guidance to rail industry on best practices to limit the spread of COVID-19 amongst passengers and workers in the rail sector.

The recommendations and guidance in this document are subject to change as new scientific information emerges and our understanding of COVID-19 disease and its variants evolves, based on risk-assessments and advice from local and national public health officials. This document reflects current public health guidance, including the use of masks. The guidance should be read in conjunction with relevant provincial or territorial and local legislation, regulations and policies. For up-to-date and evolving information regarding COVID-19, please visit the Government of Canada's COVID-19 web site

About COVID-19

COVID-19 is an illness caused by a coronavirus. Human coronaviruses are common and are typically associated with mild illnesses, similar to the common cold. Symptoms of human coronaviruses can take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to the virus, be very mild or more serious and vary from person to person.

Coronaviruses are most commonly spread from an infected person through:

  • respiratory droplets when you breath, cough, sneeze, sing, shout or talk;
  • close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands; and,
  • touching something with the virus on it, then touching your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands.

The virus can be spread to others from someone infected who hasn't yet developed symptoms (pre-symptomatic) or who will never develop symptoms (asymptomatic).


Passenger Rail Carriers should:

  1. Notify passengers at time of ticket purchase that they are encouraged to wear a mask while in the station or onboard the train to prevent the spread of COVID-19; and,
  2. Have employees read out an announcement, similar to the one provided in Annex A, prior to or onboard the train. Where required, the rail carrier should post equivalent signage.

Freight and Passenger Railway Companies should:

  1. Regularly visit the following websites for updates on COVID-19:  PHAC;; and the World Health Organization (WHO);
  2. Communicate public health recommendations and updates to workers in a timely manner;
  3. Ensure that workers have access to a mask of their own; and,
  4. Ensure that employees have access to approved hard-surface disinfectants, hand sanitizer, personal protective equipment, and other materials needed to practice routine cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces in vehicles and locomotives.


The latest advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that individuals wear a mask in public indoor settings.

Wearing a mask continues to be a basic, visible, and low-cost measure for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and has proven to be highly effective during all sections of the traveller's journey, particularly when physical distancing is not possible.

While masking is no longer mandatory for passengers and employees on federally regulated trains, and at certain points within the traveller journey (e.g., during boarding, in the station, etc.), passengers and employees are recommended and strongly encouraged to continue to wear a mask or respirator.

This includes while on the train, during boarding or disembarkation, or at other junctures in which social distancing is not possible or it is a crowded space.

Some people may continue to wear masks, and others may not. It is important that crew and travellers who elect to continue to wear a mask based on their respective risk calculations feel respected and supported.

It is recommended that employees and passengers continue to have access to masks within stations and onboard the train should they elect to wear one, and do not have one in their possession. 

A mask means any mask, including a non-medical mask, that is made of multiple layers of breathable tightly woven fabric, such as cotton and an effective middle filter layer, which are large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose and mouth and chin without gaping and are secured to the face with ties or ear loops. Masks are an additional measure to prevent respiratory droplets from contaminating others or landing on surfaces. For further guidance on masks, refer to the following link:  COVID-19 mask use: Advice for community settings

When worn properly, a person wearing a mask can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets.

Physical Distancing

Physical distancing means keeping a distance of at least 2 arm's length from others (i.e. approximately 2-metre physical distance from others). Physical distancing on board of the train, in train stations and other workplaces should be observed, as possible. The gathering of multiple people in common areas should be discouraged.

For further guidance on the prevention and risks of COVID-19, please consult the following link: COVID-19: Prevention and risks

Managing Ill Persons Aboard a Train

When a passenger informs a railway employee that they have, or when a railway employee suspects that the passenger has, developed symptoms related to COVID-19 while on board, the employee should:

  1. instruct the passenger to cough/sneeze into their elbow or a facial tissue;
  2. instruct the passenger to remain seated as much as possible to prevent the spread of droplets;
  3. if the passenger requires the use of the washroom, immediately disinfect high touch surfaces in the washroom; and
  4. wash their hands or use hand sanitizer after each interaction with the ill person.

Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has had the potential to affect a person's mental health. Railway operators should raise Mental Health awareness to all employees as they are all important to the safety of the rail industry.

Railway operators should:

  1. make active and regular efforts to check on the mental well-being of their personnel;
  2. make all employees aware of Mental Health services that are available to them, including: Employee Assistance Programs, Peer Support Programs, licensed Healthcare Providers, and the Crisis Services Canada. The Canada Suicide Prevention Service is available at 1-833-456-4566 (24/7) or text 45645 (4 PM - 12 AM ET). Additional links and resources are available on the Mental Health Commission of Canada COVID-19 Resource webpage and the Government of Canada Suicide Prevention webpage;
  3. visit The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) for downloadable resources related to returning to work during and/or after the COVID-19 pandemic;
  4. consider the need for specialized resources that provide care for specific employee groups, including the LGBTQ2 community, Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, and gender specific groups. Some national resources include: the Trans Lifeline at 1-877-330-6366, the First Nation and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310, the Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419, and the Mini-Guide For Women Sidelined From The Workforce, from the Mental Health Commission of Canada; and
  5. visit the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Mental Health Commission of Canada for additional workplace Mental Health resources.

Railway employees should;

  1. self-monitor and monitor their colleagues for any signs of distress and take early and appropriate action to intervene. Warning signs of suicide are listed on the Government of Canada Suicide Prevention webpage; and
  2. recognize that they have a responsibility to themselves, their families, co-workers, and passengers to be mentally and physically fit for duty at all times. Stressful reactions to abnormal circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, are normal and to be expected. Seeking help early may avoid or limit the need to be away from duty.

General Advice to Protect Rail Employees

Railway employees should self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 as advised by provincial and local health authorities and communicate with their immediate supervisor should they have or suspect that they have COVID-19. For information on COVID-19 testing and screening, please consult the following link: COVID-19 testing, screening and contact tracing.

Railway companies should make sure workplaces are clean and hygienic by cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces. Companies should make essential cleaning equipment available to employees before, during and after each trip. Employees should be given instructions on safe cleaning practices and disposal of cleaning equipment. More guidance can be found on the Public Health Agency of Canada's website.

Maintaining good hand and respiratory hygiene are very important personal practices for all rail workers that help reduce the risk of infection or spreading infection to others. The following best practices should be adhered to by employees:

  • wash your hands often, and whenever they become soiled, with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds;
  • If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (ABHS) containing at least 60% alcohol. However, ABHS may not be effective when there is organic material on your hands. For this reason, ABHS alone should not be used on visibly soiled hands. Use wipes to remove soil, followed by ABHS;
  • If gloves are worn, proper procedures must be followed for putting on and removing/disposing of gloves;
  • when coughing or sneezing:
    • cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand; and,
    • dispose of any tissues you have used as soon as possible in a lined waste basket and wash your hands afterwards; and
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

Proper ventilation is one way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Where air quality is a concern and where it is safe to do so, Railway employees should open windows a small amount or for a few minutes at a time. Employees should avoid the use portable fans as they do not improve ventilation and may circulate the virus in a space.

Reminder of Pre-Pandemic Procedures: Encountering travellers who potentially have a communicable disease

COVID-19 remains one of many diseases listed in the Quarantine Act. As such, it is important to review the processes that were established and in place pre-pandemic when staff encounter an individual who may have a communicable disease.

In addition, it is important to note that any traveller arriving in Canada from an international destination who has, or has signs or symptoms of, a communicable disease may be referred to the Public Health Agency of Canada on arrival in Canada.  Upon referral, a public health official will decide whether the traveller needs further medical assessment.

Annex A: Sample notification to train passengers

All travellers, even if fully vaccinated, are strongly encouraged to wear a mask that covers their mouth, nose, and chin to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout their journey.

As a reminder, no person should travel if they have symptoms of COVID-19, even if mild, have recently tested positive for COVID-19, or are in quarantine or isolation.

Stay safe and be informed about COVID-19 measures from Canadian national, provincial and territorial health authorities, and foreign jurisdictions, that apply in the region where you are heading.