Ontario to increase workplace inspections amid COVID-19 threat

The province will notably target big box stores

Ontario to increase workplace inspections amid COVID-19 threat
The announced inspections started over the weekend.

Last week, the provincial government announced that it would be increasing workplace inspections in an effort to tackle the current threat of COVID-19.

It announced that these inspections would start on January 16 and continue throughout the weekend.

The Ontarian government said that around 50 ministry inspectors as well as local bylaw and police officers would be visiting big box stores in Toronto, Hamilton, Peel, York and Durham.

The inspections will focus on making sure that both workers and shoppers are wearing masks and respecting physical distancing measures. Inspectors will have the authority to ticket supervisors, employees and even shoppers who are not complying with COVID-19 safety measures. They will also have the authority to temporarily close a premise or disperse groups of more than five people.

Inspectors will focus on areas including: Workplaces with reported COVID-19 outbreaks; manufacturing; warehousing; distribution centres; food processing; and publicly accessible ‘essential’ businesses, such as grocery stores.

“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. 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,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development.

These efforts are part of the recently announced “Stay Safe All Day” campaign. This campaign aims to promote safety before, after and during work.

Public Health Agency of Canada

In a statement on Saturday, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, detailed the current situation in Canada saying, “with the current momentum of the epidemic and continued high rates of infection in many areas of the country, rapid accumulation of cases will continue until we can make significant progress in interrupting spread. At this time, there are 76,068 active cases across the country.”

Tam says that, using a model from Simon Fraser University, current COVID-19 forecasts indicate that Canada could have 10,000 daily by the end of January, including increased hospitalizations and deaths.

“We urgently need the combined efforts of local authorities and Canadians to bend the curve of this resurgence, even as COVID-19 vaccinations continue throughout the country. We know that consistent and strong public health measures and individual practices are effective and can make a difference in the coming months to interrupt rapid spread of the virus,” she says.