As of this week, the Ontario government is expanding its workplace safety COVID-19-compliance blitz to more businesses, including farms.

The campaign began last week focused on big-box retail stores. More than 300 provincial officers will now be focusing on retail, restaurants providing take-out, gas stations, and farms, among other essential businesses.

Officers will enter businesses to “educate” and also ticket businesses that are not complying with COVID-19 health and safety requirements.

Over this past weekend, there were 76 contraventions among 240 big-box stores across the Toronto area. Most businesses, however, were in compliance with the health and safety rules.

“We know, from inspecting over 23,000 workplaces during 34,000 field visits, that the vast majority of Ontario businesses are following COVID-19 requirements to protect the health and safety of their workers,” says Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “However, if we find any employers are putting the safety of workers and customers at risk, we will not hesitate to take immediate action.”

In the agriculture sector, inspectors will be focusing on farms that employ temporary foreign workers to ensure that health and safety laws are followed and that measures are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Cathy Lennon, general manager of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, says that the organization is in support of inspections that help growers to do the right thing to protect workers. “Last year’s inspections demonstrated a high level of compliance. The industry is working together to ensure employers have the information and resources they need to be compliant,” she says.

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. All individuals, 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 with failing to comply with an order under the acts. 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.

The first campaign of 2021 will be held in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties. Additional campaigns are being planned for 10 other communities including Durham, Niagara, Halton, Huron Perth, Peterborough, Toronto and Leeds Grenville Lanark.

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