Ontario government releases COVID-19 workplace safety guidelines for employers

Guidelines and workplace posters to promote safety are part of province's plan for reopening the economy

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, along with labour, training and skills development minister Monte McNaughton and health minister Christine Elliott, announced COVID-19 workplace safety guidelines for employers on April 30, 2020. (Screenshot / CPAC)
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, along with labour, training and skills development minister Monte McNaughton and health minister Christine Elliott, announced COVID-19 workplace safety guidelines for employers on April 30, 2020. (Screenshot / CPAC)

The Ontario government has released new safety guidelines for employers as the province prepares for a gradual reopening of the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford made the announcement on Thursday (April 30) along with health minister Christine Elliott and labour, training and skills development minister Monte McNaughton.

The 61 sector-specific safety guidelines provide direction to those working in manufacturing, food manufacturing and processing, restaurant and food service, and the agricultural sector. There are also separate guidelines for the construction sector.

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“We all want to reopen our businesses, services and favourite places across the province, but we must do it in a safe and responsible way,” said Premier Ford. “That’s why we are providing clear guidelines to employers, with practical measures to help them keep staff and customers safe while preventing the spread of COVID-19. By taking these steps, we will be prepared to get people back to work when the time is right.”

The safety guidelines are based on more than 60 guidelines developed by Ontario’s health and safety associations in response to COVID-19 for various sectors such as retail, health care, construction, transportation, police services, firefighters, and transit employees.

The guidelines include recommended actions employers can take as they plan for reopening, including:

  • Ways to ensure appropriate physical distancing, like eliminating pay-at-the-door options, holding team meetings outdoors, staggering shift times, and using ground markings and barriers to manage traffic flow.
  • Changes to the workplace, such as installing plexiglass barriers, increasing the air intake on building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to increase air flow, and using boot-sanitizing trays.
  • Promoting proper workplace sanitation, providing personal protective equipment, substituting dry dusting with vacuuming, ensuring customer-facing staff are given hand sanitizer, providing a place to dispose of sanitizing wipes, and enforcing handwashing before and after breaks.

The government has also created printable posters for employers and employees to promote a variety of useful safety tips, such as physical distancing and sanitation. The posters as well as the safety guidelines are available from the Ontario government website at ontario.ca/page/resources-prevent-covid-19-workplace.

Ontario government safety posters for employers and employees in the restaurant and food services sector. (Graphics: Ontario government)
Ontario government safety posters for employers and employees in the restaurant and food services sector. (Graphics: Ontario government)

“We are truly in extraordinary times and employers and employees are facing situations they have never had to deal with before,” McNaughton said. “It is incumbent on our government, with the advice of health officials, to provide the guidance and tips outlining the safest ways to reopen workplaces and help prevent the spread.”

The government will work with Ontario’s health and safety associations to bring forward additional workplace safety guidelines for more sectors in the coming days and weeks.

Ontario also announced that, beginning this week, 58 new inspectors will join the hundreds of existing provincial labour inspectors on the ground.

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The inspectors, which include workers from the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) and the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT), will be tasked with communicating COVID-19 safety guidelines to essential workplaces or enforcing emergency measures, including physical distancing and the closure of non-essential businesses.

As of Wednesday (April 29), inspectors had completed 5,158 workplace visits and issued 1,822 orders, including 18 stop-work orders, related to COVID-19.

“Protecting the health and well-being of Ontarians during the COVID-19 outbreak has been and will always be our government’s number one priority,” Elliott said.

“These guidelines will help employers begin to plan for their safe reopening based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and in alignment with our framework to ease public health measures and restart our economy. In doing so, we can ensure we continue to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep workers safe.”

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