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TORONTO — The Ontario government is launching a series of education and enforcement campaigns to ensure businesses across the province are taking the necessary steps to keep employees, consumers and the public safe. These campaigns will support the current efforts of police, municipal by-law officers, and public health inspectors to educate businesses and enforce the COVID-19 health and safety requirements. Officers will be asking employers to produce their workplace safety plans.
The campaigns are being carried out in strategic locations, drawing on a team of more than 200 provincial offences officers from across ministries. To date, three education and enforcement campaigns have taken place. Almost 1,000 workplaces have been visited, and the response from business owners and operators has been overwhelmingly positive. No tickets have been issued and all contraventions were resolved with compliance assistance.
“The vast majority of Ontario businesses are following the rules and protecting their workers and customers ― and we thank them for doing their part,” said Premier Ford. “We’re deploying an army of inspectors to help support our businesses through education and feedback on their safety plans. For the bad actors who are intentionally breaking the rules, I’m providing a fair warning. We’ll find you and slap you with a big fine. It’s that simple.”
In Peel Region, where a two-day campaign was carried out from November 6-7, 2020, 50 provincial offences officers and six by-law officers visited 330 retail establishments with a focus on supermarkets, big-box stores and shopping malls. More than 82 per cent of businesses were found to be compliant with public health requirements under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (“Reopening Ontario Act”).
During each visit, officers provide business owners with guidance on how to operate safely during the pandemic and comply with public health requirements under the Reopening Ontario Act. These campaigns are developed in consultation with local health units and support Ontario’s COVID-19 Response Framework and enforcement under the Reopening Ontario Act. The length of the safety campaigns can range from a few days to several weeks, depending on local circumstances.
If a person or business is not found compliant with orders under the Reopening Ontario Act, they could be ticketed with a fine of $750 under the Reopening Ontario Act. Where prosecuted without issuing a ticket and on conviction, individuals could be fined up to $100,000, and directors and officers of a corporation could be fined up to $500,000. Any individual convicted of an offence under the Reopening Ontario Act could also receive a term of imprisonment of up to one year. The maximum fine for a corporation convicted of an offence under the Reopening Ontario Act is $10,000,000.
Certain businesses and establishments in the Yellow-Protect, Orange-Restrict, Red-Control, and Lockdown levels are required to develop a COVID-19 safety plan and make it available in writing for review. Whether workplaces are currently operating or planning to start up, employers need a plan to put controls in place to make the workplace safer for everyone. Employers can use current public health and workplace health and safety information or guidance to help develop their plan.
Businesses requiring a workplace safety plan include:
- Restaurants, bars, and food or drink establishments;
- Sports and recreational facilities;
- Meeting and event spaces;
- Personal care services;
- Casinos, bingo halls, and other gaming establishments;
- Cinemas; and
- Performing arts facilities.
“We know that most businesses are doing all they can to operate safely and protect their workers and customers, but some still need support,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “I am confident in saying our government is there to help. These community safety campaigns will ensure all workplaces in Ontario have the resources and information they need to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”
In collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, the Ministry of the Solicitor General is continuing to support police services and municipal by-law officersas they work through COVID-19-related enforcement.
“Ontario’s police and by-law officers are providing essential service on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “Our government will continue to provide law enforcement with the support and tools needed to promote public safety and prevent unsafe behaviour in our communities.”
- The most common areas of non-compliance during all campaigns to date have been improper mask use, lack of screening, and improper sanitization.
- A campaign is currently underway in Waterloo Region and additional campaigns are being planned for seven new communities including Eastern Ontario, York Region, Ottawa and Toronto.
- Ontario’s workplace safety plan has already been downloaded more than 42,000 times by businesses across the province.
- Ontario has launched a recruitment campaign to hire 98 more occupational health and safety inspectors, so that the province will have more active inspectors than at any time in its history.
- Since March 11, 2020, more than 20,000 field visits have been conducted by ministry workplace health and safety inspectors.
- There are more than 200 sector-specific guidance resources at Ontario.ca/covidsafety to help business owners and operators create their workplace safety plan.