Representatives from Ontario’s Ministry of Labour will proactively inspect farms and other agricultural operations known to employ temporary foreign workers
By Jackie Clark
Inspectors from the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) will be visiting agricultural workplaces to ensure employers and staff are complying with regulations in place to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
“Beginning April 21, 2020, MLTSD will conduct proactive workplace inspections focusing on workplaces that employ temporary foreign agricultural workers across Ontario,” according to a webinar held on April 21. The information session was hosted by Ron Landry, provincial specialist in occupational health and safety for MLTSD, as well as staff from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) and Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS).
The Ontario-wide initiative will be focused on agricultural workplaces because they have been deemed essential and employ temporary workers arriving from outside of Canada. Inspectors will be visiting “farms, greenhouses and other locations where agricultural workers, and workers ancillary to agricultural operations such as delivery persons and cleaners are working,” stated the webinar hosts.
The purpose is “to provide education, support and compliance assistance to employers with regard to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and restrictions due to COVID-19.”
Employers and workers must be in compliance with “OHSA, Emergency Orders made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, and public health directives and guidance issued by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Ministry of Health.”
Under the OHSA, employers must ensure that workers and supervisors are informed and trained to work safely, have health and safety protocols in place, and take every reasonable measure to protect workers. OHSA regulations mandate that if “a worker has an occupational illness due to an exposure at the workplace or that a claim has been filed with the WSIB, the employer is required to notify the ministry in writing within four days.”
To protect against COVID-19, Public Health Ontario and the Ministry of Health recommends frequent handwashing with soap or alcohol-based sanitizer, avoid touching your face or high-touch areas, and washing clothes as often as possible. Gloves can be used with care.
Inspectors may focus on what equipment and measures have been put in place to protect workers from COVID-19, including two-metre (six-feet) physical distancing, hygiene, personal protective equipment, and preventing workers with symptoms from coming to work, explained the webinar hosts.
When physical distancing is not possible, additional measures should be put in place to protect workers. “In the hierarchy of controls, the last line of defence is personal protective equipment.”
Inspectors will be following ministry and workplace biosecurity protocols.
The Ministry of Health has published guidelines for the arrival, transport, self-isolation and monitoring of temporary foreign workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Workplace Safety and Prevention Services also has online resources specifically related to farming and COVID-19.
For more information related to WSIB and COVID-19, click here.