As the province steps up enforcement of COVID-19 requirements in Ontario's workplaces, dozens of new occupational health and safety inspectors have been deployed to ensure businesses are operating safely. Over 11,800 workplace inspections have been conducted this year alone, with over 9,400 orders and 370 tickets issued.

While many workplaces are in compliance with COVID safety protocols, some still lack the basics, such as compulsory safety plans and screening protocols. The consequences of non-compliance can range from a warning, to $750 fine for not following the rules, and $1,000 fine for preventing others (including employees or other workers) from following the rules. More severe penalties include a maximum fine of up to $100,000 for individuals and $10 million for a corporation. Noncompliance can even result in prosecution and jail time.

Ensure your business is compliant by following these steps:

Develop a COVID Safety plan. By law, all businesses that are operating must have a written safety plan. The plan must be made available to anyone who asks to see it and posted in a place where it can be easily seen by all who enter the workplace including employees, clients and customers. The safety plan must provide information including how workers will be kept safe from exposure to COVID-19, how screening will be conducted, how the business will control the risk of transmission, action taken in the event of a suspected case, how any new risks caused by changes to operations will be managed, and finally, how the business will make sure the plan is working. An easy-to-use template for completing the COVID Safety plan is available online at www.ontario.ca.  

Screen workers and visitors for illness. Business owners need to implement a screening protocol for all incoming workers, contractors, suppliers, and other visitors. Direct people to the self-assessment checklist found at www.ontario.ca and verify that they have passed the assessment when they arrive at the place of business. For businesses serving the public such as retail shops and restaurants, passive screening for patrons is required. This can take the form of signs posted outside the store front advising patrons not to enter if COVID-19 symptoms exist. Some organizations have to employ more active screening protocols and some regions in Ontario have different rules as well. A guide for regulations by region can be found at the Retail Council of Canada’s website www.retailcouncil.org.   

Comprehensive guidance on all COVID-19 safety protocols is available from the Workplace Safety and Prevention Service (WSPS) at www.wsps.ca. This organization works in partnership with the provincial Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development to ensure Ontario workplaces are operating within the law. WSPS offers additional COVID-19 safety recommendations so owners can ensure compliance. Recommendations include:

  • Assign an employee to serve as a pandemic advisor responsible for determining the most up to date health information and COVID compliance regulations. This person can also facilitate the implementation of the safety plan and track progress.
  • Communicate changes in legal requirements and workplace controls to employees and ensure all employees are aware of their personal responsibility in maintaining a safe work environment.
  • Follow the enforcement activities of provincial and local police, by-law officers and provincial inspectors. Enforcement results may point to opportunities for improvement in the workplace. If the business receives an order from an inspector, learn from the caution and take steps to fix the problem.

WSPS counsellors are available to answer questions and discuss specific scenarios. “With safety plans now mandatory for all Ontario businesses and more inspections on the horizon, employers who are not in compliance need to act fast.” says WSPS Account Manager Nicole Hopkins. “The consequences are serious: greater transmission of the COVID-19 virus, and a risk of fines and imprisonment.” Contact a WSPS advisor at www.wsps.ca.

The Orangeville & Area SBEC is hosting an information session presented by the Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health Unit and the Workplace Safety and Prevention Services. The online session will be held on Wednesday, May 5 at noon and will provide guidance on how to develop the mandatory COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan, how to properly screen patrons and how to manage capacity limits. it. To register for this free webinar, visit www.orangevillebusiness.ca.

For more information and resources related to COVID-19 compliance, contact the Orangeville & Area Small Business Enterprise Centre at sbec@orangeville.ca or call 519-941-0440 Ext. 2286.

 

Ellen Sinclair is the Co-ordinator of the Orangeville & Area Small Business Enterprise Centre. She can be reached at esinclair@orangeville.ca or 519-941-0440 Ext. 2270. To sign up for notifications of SBEC programs and events visit www.orangevillebusiness.ca/subscribe.