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Ontario ramping up COVID-19 workplace safety inspections

Thursday, March 04, 2021 @ 1:08 PM | By John Schofield

Ontario has hired more than 100 additional occupational health and safety inspectors to enforce COVID-19 regulations at workplaces.

“With a new total of more than 500 inspectors, our government is building the largest team of inspectors in Ontario’s history to educate business owners, enforce public health measures and keep workplaces safe now, and for many years to come,” Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton said in a March 3 government news release.

Since Jan. 1, the release noted, provincial offences officers have conducted at least 13,374 COVID-related workplace inspections and investigations across the province, issuing 9,480 orders and 373 tickets and stopping unsafe work 15 times.

Over the past week, it added, 110 provincial offences officers in Eastern Ontario, Durham Region and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph visited 1,081 workplaces, most of them small businesses with fewer than 25 employees.

“The two-stage inspections,” it said, “provide COVID-19 education and guidance for small businesses in the first round — particularly those that were closed during the provincial shutdown — followed by more enforcement-oriented inspections on follow-up visits.”

Additional two-stage campaigns focusing on small businesses are scheduled to take place in York Region on March 5 and 6, Windsor Essex on March 6 and Waterloo Region from March 11 to 16. Inspectors are also carrying out targeted blitzes of big-box retail stores, the farming sector and areas of high COVID-19 transmission, such as staff break rooms.

The Official Opposition NDP has been urging the government to introduce a paid sick-day program to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at workplaces. On March 1, however, the government voted against the NDP’s proposed Stay Home If You Are Sick Act.

Corporations can 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. Individuals, including employees and patrons, can also be fined $750 for failing to comply with orders under the Acts.

For more serious offences, a person can be charged under Part III of the Provincial Offences Act. If convicted, the court can impose fines as high as $100,000 for individuals and up to up to $500,000 for directors and officers of a corporation. Both could also receive terms of imprisonment of up to one year.

The government news release cites several pandemic resources for small businesses, including a workplace safety plan tool kit.

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