Ontario Releases Workplace Guidelines for Four Key Sectors in Preparation for Economic Re-opening

April 30, 2020

As Ontario moves toward economic re-opening, the provincial government announced additional measures on April 30, 2020 that are aimed at promoting workplace health and safety in several key sectors. Specifically, these “best practices” guidelines apply to the manufacturing, food manufacturing/processing, restaurant/food service and agricultural sectors. They build on previously issued guidelines for the construction industry as well as recommendations developed for certain other workplaces in collaboration with industry-focused health and safety associations. Ontario is committing 58 additional workplace inspectors to the effort, who will focus primarily on communicating best practices to employers.

Overview of the Guidelines

The Government of Ontario’s general resources page for all sector-specific guidelines is here. As noted above, the sectors to which the April 30 announcement applies are the following:

The guidelines are arranged in a similar way for each sector, with dozens of specific recommendations listed under the following headings (among others):

  • Protecting yourself and your co-workers (e.g. by hand-washing and staying home when ill);
  • Physical distancing (e.g. by holding team meetings outdoors or installing plexiglass barriers);
  • Workplace sanitation (e.g. by providing hand sanitizer, improving ventilation and staggering work schedules);
  • Workplace tracking (e.g. by keeping records of where each worker has been in the workplace);
  • Reporting illness (e.g. by encouraging workers to do Ontario’s online self-assessment);
  • Sharing information (e.g. by using up-to-date workplace posters re COVID-19 policies).

Depending on the industry sector, additional recommendations may also be made. For example, in the case of restaurants (and food manufacturers with associated retail operations), there is a recommendation against accepting reusable bags from customers and a recommendation that staff be assigned to monitor physical distancing by customers. In most respects, however, the recommendations are fairly similar for all sectors.

The government is also making a range of safety posters available for downloading (see an example here; others are available on the resource page).

Going Forward

The best practices are recommendations and, as appropriate, will be incorporated into the advice that provincial labour inspectors may offer in the course of their on-site inspections. While the Government indicated that such inspections would at least initially be conducted primarily to help businesses understand how to comply, there will also be an enforcement element in cases where compliance efforts fall short.

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