Ontario says that it is expanding inspections of manufacturing and food processing workplaces, warehouses and distribution centres to mitigate the spread of contagious COVID-19 variants which are still entering the country.

“We’ve inspected these workplaces regularly throughout the pandemic, but it is important business owners and supervisors continue following health and safety best practices that have helped us get this far. These inspections are a critical tool as we support businesses and employees through this time,” said Labour Minister Monte McNaughton.

Approximately 100 provincial offences officers are expected to visit about 1,500 workplaces in Toronto, Hamilton and regions of Durham, Halton, Peel and York between May 10 and May 28.

In a media release issued Tuesday afternoon the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development said, officers made 718 visits to workplaces during the first week of the campaign, inspecting for COVID-19 workplace safety requirements under the Reopening Ontario Act.

Officers are checking that employers screen employees and visitors, ensure workers maintain physical distance and be masked, where needed, and that businesses have safety plans, among other measures. They are also offering information on workplace rapid antigen screening, supports available for businesses, as well as job-protected Infectious Disease Emergency Leave and paid sick days through the Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit.

According to the statement, only 15 per cent of businesses inspected last week were flagged for follow-up visits and nine tickets were issued, demonstrating that most businesses are following the rules and that workers are being kept safe.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, provincial offences officers and occupational health and safety inspectors have done more than 75,000 COVID-19-related inspections and investigations. They have issued over 630 tickets and stopped unsafe work related to COVID-19 93 times during that period, the Ministry of Labour stated.

“While case counts continue to drop, we can’t take anything for granted when it comes to protecting everyday workers with more contagious variants of COVID-19 entering our country every day,” Minister McNaughton said.

Collectively, the six public health units of Toronto, Hamilton, and the regions of Durham, Halton, Peel and York, account for 75 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in Ontario.

The Ministry’s analysis of follow-up inspections to small businesses found a 70 per cent improvement in health and safety compliance when comparing the first inspection to the second.

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