Ontario providing workplace safety guidelines to help employers prepare for economy's reopening
At an April 30 press conference, Ontario Premier Doug Ford discussed additional measures to help cope with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and announced that the Ontario government is providing employers with the safety guidelines necessary to prepare for the gradual reopening of the provincial economy.
This announcement and the details of this new program were announced today (April 30) by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development.
The safety guidelines released today that are necessary to protect workers, customers and the general public from COVID-19, will provide direction to those working in manufacturing, food manufacturing and processing, restaurant and food service and the agricultural sector.
These measures build on over 60 guidelines which were developed by Ontario’s health and safety associations in response to COVID-19 for several 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,” said Premier Ford.
“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 that employers can begin to plan for in preparation to adapt to the economy’s new reality during COVID-19.
The guidelines include 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, such as installing plexiglass barriers, increasing the air intake on building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to increase airflow and using boot sanitizing trays.
The guidelines also include 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.
Additionally, the government is issuing posters to promote a variety of useful safety tips, which offer helpful advice on physical distancing and sanitation.
“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.”
In the coming days and weeks, the government will work with Ontario’s health and safety associations to bring forward additional workplace safety guidelines for more sectors.
Beginning this week, 58 new inspectors will join the hundreds of existing provincial labour inspectors on the ground.
These inspectors include workers from the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) and the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) and will be instructed to communicate COVID-19 safety guidelines to essential workplaces or enforcing emergency measures, which include physical distancing and the closure of non-essential businesses.
“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.”
While the Ontario government is committed to a careful, stage-by-stage approach to reopening Ontario’s economy by loosening emergency measures, public health and workplace safety will remain the top priority while balancing the needs of people and businesses.
“Despite it all, we have many reasons to be optimistic right now,” said Ford, adding that 14.5 million people across the province have taken the fight against COVID-19 seriously.
“Because of that, because of you, we've made tremendous progress,” he said. “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
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