The government of Ontario recently announced that there will be a record increase in frontline health and safety inspectors. These inspectors will be tasked with ensuring that workplaces throughout Ontario are adhering to both normal health and safety laws, like the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), and new government regulations pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hiring of these new workers will see the number of active inspectors in the province increase from 409 to 507, an increase of 24 percent.
The new inspectors will play a key role in protecting workers by checking and enforcing that workplaces are following occupational health and safety legislation. They will have broad powers to:
- inspect any workplace and ensure they have COVID protections in place;
- investigate any potentially hazardous situation, critical injury, fatality, and work refusal;
- order compliance with the legislation;
- stop unsafe work from being performed; and
- recommend and initiate prosecutions.
Between March 11 and September 8, 2020, Ontario health and safety inspectors conducted 19,411 inspections and investigations related to COVID-19, and issued 16,520 orders while on those visits. To ensure your job site is ready for the increased likelihood of an inspection, be sure to do the following:
- develop and implement COVID-19 policies for your job site;
- ensure you have an assigned COVID-19 safety team in place;
- stay up to date with government guidelines; and
- send home any employee with COVID-19 symptoms.
If you do have a visit from a workplace health and safety officer, do not panic. Cooperate with them and contact legal counsel for further advice.
Written by Jeremy Power, a lawyer in Cotney Construction Law’s Toronto office. To contact Jeremy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.