Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (the “OHSA”) statutorily imposes duties on everyone in the workplace, including a positive duty on employers to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect employees’ health and safety.
Businesses deemed “essential”, or “non-essential” businesses continuing to operate remotely, must ensure their health and safety policies and practices meet the legal requirements and are consistent with public health orders and recommendations.
The Ontario Government has also ordered that a person responsible for an essential workplace continuing to operate must ensure the business operates in accordance with all applicable laws, including the OHSA, and compliant with all the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials.
To this end, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour has been “blitzing” essential businesses for health and safety inspections across Ontario, including to enable essential employees to express and voice their concerns, if any.
Ontario’s health and safety inspectors are responsible for enforcing compliance with health and safety legislation in provincially-regulated workplaces in Ontario and have broad regulatory powers to address non-compliance, such as issuing orders to those in the workplace, who may also potentially face charges for non-compliance with legislation, with substantial fines and even incarceration as potential outcomes in certain circumstances in the event of a conviction for an occupational health and safety related offence.
According to the Ministry, inspectors conducted over 5,000 workplace inspections during March of 2020.
The Ministry has said inspectors will work with employers and employees to resolve issues, and shut down businesses where warranted.