Ontario Launches Education Campaign to Help Workplaces Reopen Safely
February 19, 2021
The Ontario government is launching new health and safety education campaigns, with a particular focus on helping small businesses across the province reopen safely. The on-the-ground assistance includes a comprehensive suite of resources business owners can access at no cost to ensure they are helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. "Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities and they have felt the brunt of this pandemic," said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. "As we allow more businesses to reopen and get people back to work, we have to ensure they do so safely and in a responsible way. This new education campaign will offer guidance and direction, so business owners can properly protect their staff, customers and the general public." Starting next week, provincial offences officers will be visiting businesses in regions opening into grey, red and orange zones, such as the regions of Wellington-Dufferin Guelph, Durham and Eastern Ontario, with a focus on businesses that were closed during the provincial shutdown. The officers will be carrying out inspections to ensure businesses are complying with the Reopening Ontario Act and adhering to capacity limits, appropriately screening workers and customers, enforcing masking requirements and having adequate safety plans in place. Businesses visited will include stores, gyms and personal care services. "Helping our small businesses keep their customers and employees safe is a key part of building consumer confidence and safeguarding the health of communities across Ontario," said Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction. "By providing free safety training supports today, we're giving our small businesses the tools and resources they need to see a brighter and safer tomorrow." "We commend the Minister for his focus on educating small businesses about their health and safety obligations in the workplace, especially during these challenging times," said Dan Kelly, President and Chief Executive Officer at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. "Keeping small businesses open is a top priority. Inspectors could be helpful to small businesses if they use an 'education first' approach and inform them about the new supports: It's difficult to comply when you don't know the rules." The full suite of government educational supports available includes:
Free webinars on how to operate a business safely, and comply with health and safety requirements, during COVID-19.
A free 30-minute online course on infection prevention and control provided by the Public Services Health and Safety Association.
For more information on these tools, visit covid-19.ontario.ca/covid-19-help-businesses-ontario.
To help businesses understand how to use health and safety guidance to develop a safety plan for their unique situation, the government has developed a toolkit that includes a guide, template and checklist.
The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development has developed more than 200 business guidance documents. This includes factsheets, guides, posters and multilingual tip sheets for supervisors and employers.
Corporations can 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. Individuals, including employees and patrons, can also be fined $750 for failing to comply with orders under the Acts.
For more serious offences, a person can be charged under Part III of the Provincial Offences Act. If convicted, the court can impose fines as high as $100,000 for individuals, and up to up to $500,000 for directors and officers of a corporation. Both could also receive terms of imprisonment of up to one year.
Financial supports for businesses include the Workplace Safety Insurance Board’s Health and Safety Excellence Program, which offer rebates to safe employers. The Ontario government offers other supports for businesses, including the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, rebates for PPE, property tax and energy bills.
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