Ontario is launching a series of zero-tolerance workplace safety inspections in sectors and regions hardest hit by COVID-19, beginning Friday, April 9 with warehouses, food processors and manufacturers in Peel and Halton Regions.
Officers will be checking for compliance with COVID-19 health and safety requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA) to ensure appropriate physical distancing, screening, and masking.
“With more contagious variants identified in many parts of the province, it has never been more important that businesses have the appropriate health and safety protocols in place to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “We will have zero tolerance for those bad actors who break safety requirements as it puts the lives of workers and the public at risk. Our officers will not hesitate to issue tickets to those not following the rules.”
An Amazon fulfillment centre in Brampton ordered shut for two weeks in March due to a COVID-19 outbreak, was also allegedly violated workplace safety norms according to media reports.
Additionally, this Saturday, a multi-ministry team of provincial offences officers will be deployed to Peel and Halton Regions to carry out a campaign in retail outlets that are permitted to be open, including big-box stores.
These inspections will focus on enforcing the COVID-19 safety requirements and violations may result in fines up to $750 for individuals and $1,000 for businesses. In addition, officers will be helping retailers understand the new requirements under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, to bring them into compliance, including the selling of only essential items.
The government will work with local enforcement personnel to enforce and bring retailers into compliance where necessary, the province said.
If a violation is more serious, a person can be charged with failing to comply with an order under the acts. If convicted, the court can impose fines as high as $100,000 for individuals, and directors and officers of a corporation can be fined up to $500,000. Both could also receive terms of imprisonment of up to one year. The maximum fine for a corporation on conviction of an offence is up to $10 million.
There will also be increased inspections and enforcement across the province that will include enhanced education and outreach to the construction sector, a robust and expanding program for rapid antigen screening for COVID-19 in construction, along with a zero-tolerance approach to enforcement of COVID-19 safety requirements on construction projects.
Risk-based inspections of farms employing temporary foreign workers, including working closely with Service Canada and local public health units to coordinate inspections and share information, will continue.
Since the beginning of 2021, occupational health and safety inspectors and multi-ministry teams of provincial offences officers have conducted more than 19,500 COVID-related workplace inspections and investigations across the province. During those visits, they’ve issued over 15,000 orders and over 450 COVID-19 related tickets, and stopped unsafe work related to COVID-19 a total of 24 times.
Businesses can access free training and assistance, including the workplace safety plan toolkit, live webinars on how to operate a business safely and comply with COVID-19 health and safety requirements, and a 30-minute online course on infection prevention and control provided by the Public Services Health and Safety Association.
Workplace COVID-19 safety fact sheets, guides and posters are available at Ontario.ca/covidsafety. These include multilingual tip sheets for employers.