The Ontario government has issued a news release saying they are “taking additional measures to protect workers in response to rising Covid-19 cases.
Beginning this Saturday and Sunday, approximately 50 ministry inspectors, as well as local bylaw and police officer, will be visiting big-box stores in Toronto, Hamilton, Peel, York and Durham. The government blitz will focus on ensuring workers and patrons are wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and following “every health and safety measure.” The question that needs to be answered is – will people with exemptions have them honoured?
Workplace health and safety inspectors are being given the authority to ticket supervisors, employees and patrons who do not comply with Covid-19 safety requirements. They may also temporarily close a premise and disperse groups of more than five people.
The campaign targets workplaces with “higher risks”
According to the press release the campaign targets workplaces identified with “heightened risks that have been identified using data from local public health units and information reported directly to the province.”
The inspections will focus on “areas of high transmission” including break rooms and will provide “resource materials to employers and workers to promote safe behaviour before, during and after work.
The inspections will focus on workplaces in the following sectors;
- Workplaces with reported Covid-19 outbreaks
- Distribution Centres
- Food processing
- Publicly accessible workplaces deemed essential, such as grocery stores
Fines for individuals and businesses
Individuals and businesses who are not following the rules can be fined. The set fines are:
- $750 for not following the rules;
- $1000 for preventing others (including employees or other workers) from following the rules
Maximum fines can be up to $100,000 for individuals and $10 million for a corporation. The government says “failure to follow the rules could also result in prosecution or even a year in jail.”
The concern I have is that these measures give a lot of power and discretion to ministry inspectors that could greatly harm a business doing their best to follow protocol. I’m sure many will be happy to see big-box stores come under more scrutiny – but personally, I’d just like to see all stores open. I believe this would allow people to spread out and avoid shopping in big-box stores for all of their needs – something that can create a funnel effect.
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