A four-day, multi-ministerial COVID-19 workplace safety blitz in the Peterborough-area resulted in seven tickets, 36 formal warnings and 17 occupational health and safety orders.
A team of 26 provincial offences officers, joined by local public health inspectors and bylaw officers, conducted the blitz from Feb. 17-20 at approximately 260 businesses, including big-box stores, other retailers, restaurants and fitness centres.
The province did not release the names of the businesses that were ticketed.
According to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, the officers found, in preliminary reporting, that 43 per cent were in compliance with public health requirements under the Reopening Ontario Act.
“Quite frankly this isn’t good enough,” said Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Training & Skills Development.
“We also understand the challenges businesses face. I want them to know we’ve put out hundreds of resources including posters and tip sheets and videos, free of charge. So businesses know exactly what they need to do during the pandemic to keep their workers and customers safe.”
“I think what it shows, there is room for improvement by our business sector,” said Julie Ingram, the environmental health manager at Peterborough Public Health.
“I think we have to be cautious interpreting that number of 57 per cent of businesses not in compliance. It doesn’t mean 57 per cent of businesses aren’t safe to attend. A very small, minor violation could put a premises into non-compliance. I think it’s important to be mindful of that. What we see is most businesses are trying really hard.”
McNaughton tells Global News Peterborough that the local results ‘are weaker than other areas of the province.’
“We also know that when we go back to do follow ups, we see improvements. Overwhelmingly, businesses are doing a great job during COVID-19. We just need them to be more vigilant than at any other time during the pandemic,” he said.
Follow-up visits to certain businesses where contraventions were found will be conducted in the coming weeks to check for compliance, the ministry states in an email.
Two of the most common contraventions were that businesses were not actively screening everyone who works on site before they entered and they did not have a COVID-19 workplace safety plan.
This initiative was the first multi-ministry COVID-19 safety campaign in the Peterborough-area.
Many of the businesses had been closed to the public during the provincial shutdown and for that reason, most officer visits focused on providing education and compliance assistance, the ministry states.
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