There’s new information and updates almost every day in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and as it continues, inspections by provincial inspectors have increased in Ontario. From the smallest townships all the way to the heart of Toronto, the need for workplaces to prepare and redesign their spaces to suit the current world we live in is paramount.
The director of the occupational health and safety branch at the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development Anne Duffy answers some questions to shed light on how the provincial government is working to ensure compliance through the pandemic. These are unforeseen times and everyone is doing their best to make sure Canada is navigating is safely and effectively. Anne states that inspectors will attend the workplace to audit for compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations as was done in the past. However it may be specific to COVID prevention or may also be a look at all workplace hazards. A workplace can be audited for safety randomly, as a follow-up on a report or by request of staff or management. It is also crucial in current inspections that the inspector attempt to maintain physical distancing during their field visit. They self-screen daily and do not attend any workplace if they fail the self-assessment, as well as always ensure they’re wearing the maximum amount of appreciate PPE.
Many workers and workplaces are actually unsure about how to design their space to be as safe as possible, or if they in fact are committing violations. This is where there’s a lot of encouragement to air on the safe side and contact the government with your questions. Anne Duffy reports that since March 11th, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development has conducted 14,339 field visits related to COVID-19 — including both proactive inspections and reactive investigations — and issued 10,263 orders while on these visits. This is a huge uptick from this time last year, wherein the numbers were substantially lower in nearly every category of visit.
This pandemic will hopefully not last too much longer, but in the meantime it’s a relief to see and know that the Canadian and local provincial governments are taking this threat seriously and responding accordingly.
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