Campaign designed to ensure businesses are properly protecting staff and customers
TORONTO — Ontario’s provincial offences officers have visited 1,147 big-box stores and other essential retail businesses so far this month and will be visiting more than 400 additional stores this weekend in Toronto, Hamilton and Kitchener-Waterloo. The inspections are designed to ensure businesses are following the public health guidelines and properly protecting workers and customers from COVID-19. So far this year, 112 tickets have been issued to businesses and individuals during three inspection campaigns.
“We’ve marshalled hundreds of officers to inspect over 1,000 businesses in a few short weeks, and we’ll keep it up as long as there are bad actors out there,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “Our government is confident that the majority of workplaces are taking all necessary steps to protect their customers and workers from the spread of COVID-19. However, if we find businesses putting people at risk, we will take immediate action. This late in the pandemic, there is absolutely no excuse for owners, staff and customers alike not to be following health and safety rules.”
The most common reasons cited for non-compliance were failure to properly screen staff and patrons, improper social distancing and workplaces not having adequate COVID-19 workplace safety plans. All businesses operating during lockdown must have a COVID-19 workplace safety plan that is available to anyone who asks to see it and is posted in a place where it can be easily seen. The plan is meant to put in place controls that help make the workplace safer for everyone and does not replace the Occupational Health and Safety Act or the Employment Standards Act.
The upcoming weekend blitzes in Toronto, Hamilton and Kitchener-Waterloo will be followed by additional inspection campaigns in Halton and Huron Perth next week. Provincial offences officers, as well as local public health inspectors and municipal bylaw officers, are conducting inspections of big-box stores and a variety of other workplaces such as retail establishments, restaurants providing take-out meals and essential service-sector establishments such as gas stations. These inspection campaigns were developed in consultation with local public health units.
Similar inspections took place last weekend in Ottawa, Windsor, Niagara and Durham Regions, during which a total of 107 provincial offences officers from across the Ontario government conducted nearly 700 workplace visits. They found 41 per cent of businesses had at least one issue of non-compliance and 98 tickets were issued.
Corporations can be now be fined $1,000 for failing to comply with the orders under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act and the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Everyone in Ontario, including employees and patrons, can also be fined $750 for failing to comply with orders under the acts.
If a violation is more serious, a person can be charged under Part III of the Provincial Offences Act for failing to comply with a legislated COVID-19 health and safety requirement. If convicted, the court can impose fines as high as $100,000 for individuals, and directors and officers of a corporation can be fined up to $500,000. Both could also receive terms of imprisonment of up to one year. The maximum fine for a corporation on conviction of an offence is up to $10,000,000.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, the Ministry of the Solicitor General is continuing to encourage local police services and municipal bylaw enforcement officers to focus on COVID-19-related enforcement.
The province is also taking additional measures to protect farmworkers during the pandemic by expanding provincewide inspections to farms, greenhouses and other agricultural operations to ensure health and safety measures are being followed.
To help businesses comply with the public health measures, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development has developed more than 200 business guideline documents.