by Candice Vetter
I requested an interview with the Minister of Labour, Trainings and Skill Development. He declined the interview, but the ministry did provide some guidance about workplace safety during Covid.
Here is the response:
The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development’s (MLTSD) top priority is keeping workers safe.
Ontario’s health and safety laws apply to all workers. It does not matter how old the worker is, whether they are working part-time or full-time or whether they are employees or self-employed. In all circumstances, every precaution reasonable must be taken to keep them safe.
Workers have the right to refuse unsafe work. Any worker who does not feel safe should speak to their supervisor. If the matter cannot be resolved, they should contact MLTSD. Our ministry responds to every complaint we receive. Any worker in Ontario who feels unsafe should report their concerns to our ministry so we can investigate. On our website, you will be able to find guides that speak to our health and safety and employment standards work.
In response to COVID-19, our ministry has also developed more than 200 COVID-19 resources (with many in multiple languages) for employers to help prevent COVID-19 spread in the workplace.
Last week, the government launched a series of zero-tolerance workplace safety inspections in sectors and regions hardest hit by COVID-19, and where workers are at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, with the first blitzes taking place this past weekend in Peel and Halton.
This builds on several workplace safety initiatives conducted across the province over the last year, in consultation with local public health units, including targeted blitzes of big-box stores, the warehousing sector in Peel, the farming sector (with an emphasis on farms that use temporary foreign workers), and education-first campaigns for small businesses.
In all, since the beginning of the pandemic, MLTSD has conducted over 45,680 COVID-19 related field visits and issued over 48,650 orders on those visits and stopped unsafe work 80 times.
To further protect the health and safety of workers in Ontario, MLTSD has:
Given out over 470 tickets to businesses and supervisors in 2021
Hired over 100 new inspectors to build the largest workplace inspectorate in the province’s history
Doubled the phone lines at our Health & Safety Contact Centre
Evidence gathered from workplace inspections shows the vast majority of employers and workers are following COVID-19 safety requirements when working. As a result, only 5% of all COVID-19 cases in Ontario have been contracted in the workplace.
Through the Safe Restart Agreement negotiated with the federal government, anyone in Ontario who is ill or needs to self-isolate has access to paid sick days, including part-time workers. The government has been advocating on behalf of workers to ensure money is distributed faster, is easier to access, and is accessible to workers who need it multiple times. The province thanks the federal government for listening to concerns regarding getting the average payment time down to 3-5 days and, recently, doubling the claim period from two to four weeks. The province will continue to work with the federal government to maximize this program.
The Employment Standards Act does not have provisions related to how employers monitor their employees’ hours of work or location and the Occupational Health and Safety Act does not address mandatory utilization of tracking apps.
Regarding privacy issues, you may wish to contact the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario for more information.
Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development