OHS Canada Magazine

Q&A: How IMAX is coping through COVID-19

Melissa Clarke discusses theatre company’s prevention measures


In March, companies across Canada were confronted with an unprecedented pandemic.

Here’s how Melissa Clarke, director of business continuity and workplace safety at IMAX in Mississauga, Ont., has been leading her team through it.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Melissa Clarke, director of business continuity and workplace safety at IMAX in Mississauga, Ont. (Submitted)

OHS Canada: What measures did you put in place at your organization to protect staff?

Melissa Clarke: The IMAX Pandemic/Infection Control Plan specifies a phased approach in co-ordination with local regulatory requirements.

Our approach leading up to quarantine measures in each of our locations was phased, as will be our return to on-site activities. Implementation of each of the phases is driven by regulatory guidelines and the risk associated with our operations at each work location around the globe.

We started out with restrictions of visitors and moved to limiting to only essential contract employees and
vendors. We reduced travel to essential business travel and progressed to no business travel. Travel will resume based on phases implemented by each country, state and province, and will also be dependent on risk of infection within each business activity.

We revised seating and path of travel arrangements in the office, testing, manufacturing, warehouse, depots and theatre settings.

We increased cleaning and sanitization protocols, working with janitorial staff and vendors to develop consistent cleaning protocols at all facilities between staggered shifts and showings.

Our workplace cafeterias, kitchens, concessions and refreshment stations switched to disposable versus reusable dinnerware and cutlery, and moved from self-serve to served food only, alongside increased cleaning in these areas.

We increased the availability of hand sanitizer throughout our facilities, along with cleaning products for shared workstations.

Masks and gloves were provided to staff in office, and fit testing occurred for anyone who was utilizing N95 masks at the time.

We implemented daily employee and essential contractor and vendor health screening via an emergency notification system — text and email.

What changes did you make to protect the health and safety of your customers?

MC: We will be implementing social distancing within all of our facilities, seating arrangements to respect social distancing, increased cleaning protocols between screenings and in public spaces, health screening and PPE requirements, increased signage and rigorous awareness as well as communication programming.

What type of effect did the increased pressure have on you personally?

MC: I have been extremely busy in my role with response efforts under safety and business continuity. There have been many long nights and weekends worked. So much so, that at one point I found myself ill-prepared for the pandemic in my personal life. By that, I mean at one point while we were mobilizing everyone to work from home, I realized I needed to go out to stock up on groceries just like everyone else!

I am feeling fatigued at the moment, as this impacted our operations in January due to our presence in China. Just as China was returning to work in our offices, the rest of the world was entering quarantine measures. For someone in my role, that has meant zero downtime. Having been involved in pandemic planning in the health-care industry, I was not caught off guard. I always knew that it was just a matter of time before this occurred.

What did you learn about navigating your company’s health and safety policy through a pandemic?

MC: We have a really good program in place that formed a very good foundation for us to build upon in an ever-changing and unprecedented situation.

I learned the importance of conducting exercises for various threats before they occur. When you are having difficulty obtaining buy-in to plan for an event, exercise that scenario.

This Q&A was published in the May/June 2020 issue of OHS Canada.