The Ontario government is ensuring employers have the safety guidelines they need to protect workers, customers, and the general public from COVID-19 as it prepares for a gradual reopening of the provincial economy.
The government safety guidelines released April 30 will provide direction to those working in manufacturing, food manufacturing and processing, restaurant and food service, and the agricultural sector.
These measures build on more than 60 guidelines developed by Ontario’s health and safety associations in response to COVID-19 for various sectors such as retail, health care, construction, transportation, police services, firefighters, and transit employees.
“We all want to reopen our businesses, services and favourite places across the province, but we must do it in a safe and responsible way,” Premier Ford said. “That’s why we are providing clear guidelines to employers, with practical measures to help them keep staff and customers safe while preventing the spread of COVID-19. By taking these steps, we will be prepared to get people back to work when the time is right.”
These new sector-specific guidelines feature recommended actions employers can begin to plan for as they prepare to adapt to the new reality during COVID-19, including:
· Ways to ensure appropriate physical distancing, like eliminating pay-at-the-door options, holding team meetings outdoors, staggering shift times and using ground markings and barriers to manage traffic flow.
· Changes to the workplace, like installing plexiglass barriers, increasing the air intake on building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to increase air flow, and using boot sanitizing trays.
· Promoting proper workplace sanitation, providing personal protective equipment, substituting dry dusting with vacuuming, ensuring customer-facing staff are given hand sanitizer, providing a place to dispose of sanitizing wipes, and enforcing handwashing before and after breaks.
The government is also issuing posters to promote a variety of useful safety tips. The posters offer helpful advice on physical distancing and sanitation. They are downloadable from the Ontario.ca website so employers can print and post them in their workplaces.
“We are truly in extraordinary times and employers and employees are facing situations they have never had to deal with before,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “It is incumbent on our government, with the advice of health officials, to provide the guidance and tips outlining the safest ways to reopen workplaces and help prevent the spread.”
The government will work with Ontario’s health and safety associations to bring forward additional workplace safety guidelines for more sectors in the coming days and weeks.
Starting this week, 58 new inspectors will join the hundreds of existing provincial labour inspectors on the ground. The inspectors, which include workers from the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) and the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT), will be tasked with communicating COVID-19 safety guidelines to essential workplaces or enforcing emergency measures, including physical distancing and the closure of non-essential businesses.
“Protecting the health and well-being of Ontarians during the COVID-19 outbreak has been and will always be our government’s number one priority,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “These guidelines will help employers begin to plan for their safe reopening based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and in alignment with our framework to ease public health measures and restart our economy. In doing so, we can ensure we continue to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep workers safe.”
“Our province’s businesses have made great efforts to protect the health and safety of their workers throughout the course of this pandemic,” said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. “These new guidelines will help employers continue to protect their staff and customers as we begin to carefully and methodically re-open our economy, so that we can return Ontario to prosperity in the safest way possible.”
The government is committed to a careful, stage-by-stage approach to loosening emergency measures and reopening Ontario’s economy. Public health and workplace safety will remain the top priority, while balancing the needs of people and businesses.