'There will be real consequences for those who break the rules'
Ontario has begun inspecting workplaces to ensure that workers and patrons are wearing masks, maintaining physical distances and following every health and safety measure amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past weekend, about 50 ministry inspectors and local bylaw and police officers visited more than 100 big-box stores and found more than 30 violating the safety rules, according to media reports.
"We know most businesses are operating responsibly and taking the necessary steps to protect their workers and customers, and I want to thank them for their efforts," says Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, training and skills development. "Where we find an employer who has been acting in bad faith, we won't hesitate to take action by immediately slapping them with a ticket and a fine. There will be real consequences for those who break the rules."
Ontario ministry inspectors have the authority to ticket supervisors, employees and patrons who do not comply with safety requirements, temporarily close a premise and disperse groups of more than five people.
Individuals and businesses who are not following the rules can be fined $750 for not following the rules or $1,000 for preventing others (including employees or other workers) from following the rules.
Maximum fines can be up to $100,000 for individuals and $10 million for a corporation. Failure to follow the rules could also result in prosecution or a year in jail.
A September 2020 report from the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) found that 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among working-age adults in Ontario can be attributed to workplace transmission.
Campaign for safety
The inspection efforts build on the province’s "Stay Safe All Day" campaign announced earlier this week. The campaign focuses on workplace inspections in areas of high transmission, including break rooms.
It provides resource materials to employers and workers to promote safe behaviour before, during and after work.
The campaign workplaces with heightened risks, identified using data from local public health units and information reported directly to the province. Inspectors will focus on workplaces in the following sectors:
- workplaces with reported COVID-19 outbreaks
- distribution centres
- food processing
- publicly accessible workplaces deemed essential, such as grocery stores
Recently, Ontario declared a second provincial emergency because COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise at an alarming rate, and the “looming threat” at hospitals and long-term care homes.
Ministry inspectors will also continue inspections at long-term care homes and retirement homes using a new data-sharing initiative with the Ministry of Long-Term Care and the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority, according to the government.