The Ontario government just announced that it will be carrying out inspections of open workplaces, including big-box retailers, in Hamilton and other hard-hit areas amid the second declaration of a provincial emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMPCA).
In a news release, the province said that beginning this Saturday (Jan. 16) and Sunday (Jan. 17), approximately 50 ministry inspectors, as well as local bylaw and police officers, will be visiting big-box stores in Toronto, Hamilton, Peel (Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon), York and Durham.
The province says the blitz will “focus on ensuring workers and patrons are wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and following every health and safety measure.”
Workers and shoppers found violating COVID-19 rules could face steep fines, the province says.
According to the province, workplace health and safety inspectors will have the authority to ticket supervisors, employees and patrons who do not comply with COVID-19 safety requirements, temporarily close a premise and disperse groups of more than five people.
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“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,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development.
“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.”
These efforts build on the “Stay Safe All Day” campaign announced earlier this week, which will focus workplace inspections in areas of high transmission, including break rooms, and educate employers and workers on safe behaviour before, during and after work.
Inspectors 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
Ministry inspectors will also continue onsite inspections at long-term care homes and retirement homes.
Individuals and businesses who are not following the rules can be fined. The set fines are $750 for not following the rules and $1,000 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. Failure to follow the rules could also result in prosecution or even a year in jail.