‘I'm glad government has heard us. It's the right thing to do, and the right time to do it’
Ontario is investing $11.6 million to hire 98 frontline health and safety inspectors who will ensure workplaces across the province are doing their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The hiring will push the number of active inspectors in the province from 409 to 507, an increase of 24 per cent. With these new hires, there will be more labour inspectors on the ground than ever before in the province's history, according to the government.
“Our government is taking the steps necessary to protect Ontario workers on the job and keep our economy on the road to full recovery,” says Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, training and skills development. “By adding more inspectors to our team, we can respond faster to situations as they arise and help make sure that every office, plant, store and job site in this province is safe, during COVID-19 and beyond.”
The new inspectors will have the powers to:
- inspect any workplace and ensure they have COVID protections in place
- investigate any potentially hazardous situation, critical injury, fatality and work refusal
- order compliance with the legislation
- stop unsafe work from being performed
- recommend and initiate prosecutions
One in five (20 per cent) of COVID-19 infections among working-age adults in Ontario can be attributed to workplace transmission, noted the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) early in September.
The recruitment of the inspectors will begin in early October 2020. Applicants will have one month to apply. Training is set to begin later this fall.
“Nothing is more important than protecting the health and safety of our workers,” says McNaughton. “By building the largest labour inspectorate in history, we're in the best position to do just that.”
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is pleased with the government announcement., noting that the new inspectors will cover a range of workplaces, including industrial, construction, and health care.
“We've been telling government that we're not through the worst of this pandemic yet, and that complacency will kill. The government must react quickly to danger, and these new inspectors will help do just that,” says Warren Thomas, OPSEU president.
“It's simple math: not enough inspectors plus a rising number of cases equals an increased danger of deadly outbreaks. From Day 1 of this pandemic, we've been urging government to invest in more inspectors so that workers can have their concerns and their fears addressed as quickly as possible,” says Eduardo Almeida, OPSEU first vice-president/treasurer. “I'm glad government has heard us. It's the right thing to do, and the right time to do it.”
As of August, workers in Canada, as well as the U.K. and the U.S., still have safety concerns when it comes to returning to the workplace.