COVID-19 workplace inspections expanded to farms

CORNWALL — The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development has extended COVID-19 workplace inspections to agricultural operations such as farms and greenhouses across the province. These inspections are due to take place over the coming weeks, focusing on locations that employ temporary foreign workers.

Inspectors will be making sure that farming operations are protecting their workers through increasing awareness about COVID-19, compliance with workplace health and safety requirements, and enhancing protection for foreign workers. As has been the case with the big-box store inspections, farming operations must also have a COVID-19 workplace safety plan.

“Our government is taking action to protect essential temporary foreign workers who may be at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 during the upcoming growing season,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “We rely on these workers to ensure our grocery store shelves remain stocked and families have food on the table. These inspections will help stop the spread of COVID-19 on farms, and in our communities.”

“Our farmers, agri-food workers, greenhouse operators and food processors are working hard to keep their operations safe 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, and prevent and control COVID-19 outbreaks.”

“This announcement continues the government’s efforts to support farmers and their employees, who are the among the heroes who have ensured that everyone has access to safe, high-quality food during the pandemic,” said Jim McDonell, MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry.

Inspectors can take enforcement action should a farming operation contravene the current requirements, ranging from the issuing of orders to criminal charges. The maximum penalty upon conviction under the OHSA is $1.5 million for a corporation and $100,000 for an individual. Individuals may also be imprisoned for up to 12 months on conviction.

Lack of workplace safety plan common among Ottawa retail outlets not complying with COVID-19 safety rules

OTTAWA — The COVID-19 workplace safety inspections came to Ottawa last weekend (January 23rd and 24th), focusing on big-box stores and other essential businesses that are permitted to operate during the lockdown. Supported by Ottawa Public Health, provincial offences officers visited locations to make sure businesses in the region are adhering to public health requirements such as capacity limits, employees wearing masks, the screening of employees, and having a workplace safety plan.

Officers found that 61% of the 125 stores inspected were in compliance and that many of the stores found to be in contravention did not have a workplace safety plan. Twenty-seven tickets and 18 occupational health and safety orders issued. A spokesperson from the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, Kalem McSween, said that results to date have shown that a majority of businesses in Ontario are doing the right things. 

Inspections were also carried out in Windsor, Niagara Region, and Durham Region. In total, 107 officers visited 644 workplaces and found that 59 per cent of businesses had at least one contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act. A total of 88 tickets and 106 orders were issued.

Campaigns are planned in several other Ontario jurisdictions in the coming weeks, including Hamilton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Huron Perth and Peterborough.

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