EASTERN ONTARIO — Starting next week, provincial offences officers will visit recently reopened businesses in regional grey, red and orange zones — including Eastern Ontario — with a focus on shops that were closed during the provincial shutdown. Businesses visited will include stores, gyms and personal care services, says the Ford government.
“The officers will be carrying out inspections to ensure businesses are complying with the Reopening Ontario Act and adhering to capacity limits, appropriately screening workers and customers, enforcing masking requirements and having adequate safety plans in place,” says the official press release outlining what is deemed a new “health and safety education campaign” touted as “helping small businesses to reopen safely.”
Beyond visits from officialdom, the government is sugaring the pill with “on-the-ground assistance,” including “a comprehensive suite of resources business owners can access at no cost to ensure they are helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.”
“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities and they have felt the brunt of this pandemic,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “As we allow more businesses to reopen and get people back to work, we have to ensure they do so safely and in a responsible way. This new education campaign will offer guidance and direction, so business owners can properly protect their staff, customers and the general public.”
“Helping our small businesses keep their customers and employees safe is a key part of building consumer confidence and safeguarding the health of communities across Ontario,” said Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction. “By providing free safety training supports today, we’re giving our small businesses the tools and resources they need to see a brighter and safer tomorrow.”
“We commend the Minister for his focus on educating small businesses about their health and safety obligations in the workplace, especially during these challenging times,” said Dan Kelly, President and Chief Executive Officer at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “Keeping small businesses open is a top priority. Inspectors could be helpful to small businesses if they use an ‘education first’ approach and inform them about the new supports: It’s difficult to comply when you don’t know the rules.”
The full suite of available educational supports includes:
- Free webinars on how to operate a business safely, and comply with health and safety requirements, during COVID-19.
- A free 30-minute online course on infection prevention and control provided by the Public Services Health and Safety Association.
- Provincial Employment Standards Call Centre (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Occupational Health and Safety Contact Centre (email@example.com) to answer small business health and safety questions.
Prior to lifting of the provincial shutdown, officials did inspect a number of big-box stores and other essential businesses — visiting 2,308 of those workplaces and issuing 218 tickets between the New Year and Feb. 11. The most common infractions were failure to properly screen staff and not having COVID-19 workplace safety plans.
“We are seeing the positive effect of having boots on the ground, ensuring businesses are following health and safety guidelines to protect their workers and customers from COVID-19,” said McNaughton at the time.