Ontario manufacturing workers most prone to COVID-19 deaths early in pandemic

'There were decisions that were made to prioritize the economy'

Ontario manufacturing workers most prone to COVID-19 deaths early in pandemic

Those who worked in manufacturing in Ontario were the ones most at risk of COVID-19 deaths early on in the pandemic, according to a report.

A total of 108 Ontarians died from what the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) determined were work-related COVID-19 infections between April 2020 and the end of 2021, according to data seen by the Toronto Star.

Among them, 34 were in manufacturing-related sectors (26 in manufacturing, eight in food production), far more than the 23 deaths recorded in the healthcare sector (14 in long-term care, four in health-care, three in ambulatory care and two in residential care).

Read more: COVID-19 deaths more likely among immigrants, says report

Other sectors that recorded several work-related COVID-19 deaths in the province at the time include:

  • transportation (nine)
  • warehousing (six)
  • agriculture (six)
  • construction (five)
  • retail (four)
  • security services (three)

One expert questioned why manufacturing companies continued to operate at the height of the pandemic and says the Ontario government should have focused on protecting vulnerable people and safeguarding the province’s health-care system, according to the Toronto Star report.

“I don’t personally view gum or doors as essential necessities during a time of crisis,” he said. “To me, it seems there were decisions that were made to prioritize the economy.”

Read more: Migrant workers at highest risk of COVID infection: Report

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, some 25 percent of the total death count because of the virus were attributed to immigrants, according to a Statistics Canada report released in June 2021.

This is the case even though immigrants made up only 22 percent of the total Canadian population, providing a relative burden ratio of 1.1 among the said group, according to StatsCan. This data suggests a crude mortality rate of 26 and 22 per 100,000 people for immigrants and non-immigrants, respectively,

Also, migrant farm workers who come to Ontario from other countries are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and other diseases, according to an earlier report.

Read more: Federal government increases investment for farm workers

In August 2020, the federal government announced a $58.6 million additional investment to the Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) program to help safeguard the health and safety of Canadian and migrant workers from COVID-19.