Ontario adding hundreds more officers to expand its COVID-19 workplace inspection blitz

Jan 20 2021, 7:30 am

The provincial government is expanding its current workplace inspection campaign to protect workers and customers within essential businesses.

After 110 Big Box Stores were inspected and five fined last week, more than 300 officers will be visiting and inspecting workplaces that have the green light to remain open during Ontario’s shut down.

Essential businesses include retail establishments, big-box stores, restaurants providing take-out meals, essential service-sector establishments (such as gas stations), and farming operations, stated the Ontario government in a release.

“We know, from inspecting over 23,000 workplaces during 34,000 field visits, that the vast majority of Ontario businesses are following COVID-19 requirements to protect the health and safety of their workers,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development.

“However, if we find any employers are putting the safety of workers and customers at risk, we will not hesitate to take immediate action.”

This past weekend, 240 big-box stores were inspected in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), during which enforcement officials found 76 contraventions. Inspections found 69% of businesses visited complying with public health requirements.

According to the province, inspectors are also visiting farming operations across Ontario, focusing on specific locations that employ temporary foreign workers to “ensure that health and safety rules are being followed and important measures are in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Our farmers, agri-food workers, greenhouse operators and food processors are working hard to protect the health and safety of our agri-food workers while continuing to provide us with a steady and reliable food supply,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

“Since last spring, we have taken several measures to support them, including reinforcing public health protocols, making investments to increase operational capacity and helping to address labour challenges. Agri-food workplace inspections are part of our continued efforts to raise awareness, prevent and control COVID-19 outbreaks to protect workers’ health and safety and maintain our strong food supply.”

According to the province, corporations can now be fined $1,000 for failing to comply with the orders under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act and the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

As for individuals, including employees and patrons, they can also be fined $750 for failing to comply with orders under the acts.

More serious violations can be charged with failing to comply with an order under the acts and, if convicted, fines could go as high as $100,000 for individuals, and directors and officers of a corporation can be fined up to $500,000, including the possibility of imprisonment of up to one year.

The maximum fine a corporation can receive on conviction is up to $10,000,000.

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