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Ont. manufacturers to receive more testing, inspections under emergency order [UPDATED]


Photo: sturti/Getty Images

This article was updated Jan. 18 to include information on fines.

Ontario’s manufacturing sector will receive additional COVID-19 tests as part of increased restrictions announced today in response to rising case numbers of the coronavirus.

The province will provide up to 300,000 COVID-19 tests per week to support manufacturing, warehousing, supply chain and food processing, as well as additional tests for schools and long-term care homes.

The extra tests will also support antigen screening for up to 150,000 workers per week over the next four to five months.

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The province is expecting to receive 12 million Panbio tests from the federal government over the next several months.

Dennis Darby, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, says the association welcomes the news that manufacturing will be able to continue with expanded testing.

“The manufacturing sector has worked aggressively to introduce protocols and provide a safe work environment for their workers throughout this pandemic, while producing goods essential for the response and recovery,” says Darby in a statement.

“CME will continue to work closely with government to ensure that our manufacturing sector continues to operate in accordance with highest safety standards.”

Remote work encouraged

Premier Doug Ford has declared a second provincial emergency, issuing a stay-at-home order effect Jan. 14 at 12:01 a.m.

The stay-at-home order requires people to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work.

All businesses are required to ensure that any employee who can work from home, does work from home.

Inspection “blitzes” to ramp up

Enforcement and provincial offences officers, local police forces, bylaw officers and provincial workplace inspectors now have authority to issue tickets to individuals who do not comply with the stay-at-home-order, or those not wearing a mask or face covering indoors, as well as retail operators and companies who do not enforce.

The province will issue fines and/or prosecution to those who don’t comply. Workplace inspections will also ramp up, said Ford, who warned of “inspection blitzes.”

Individuals and businesses who are not following the rules can be fined. The set fines are: $750 for not following the rules; $1,000 for preventing others (including employees or other workers) from following the rules.

Maximum fines can be up to $100,000 for individuals and $10 million for a corporation. Failure to follow the rules could also result in prosecution or even a year in jail.

The province is also requiring employers to report all illnesses in the workplace, including COVID-19, even if the illness was not contracted at work. All cases must be reported to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, the workplace’s joint health and safety committee/representative and trade union.

Enforcement officers will also be able to temporarily close a premise and disperse individuals who are in contravention of an order and will be able to disperse people who are gathering, regardless whether a premise has been closed or remains open such as a park or house.

New workplace safety campaign

The province is also launching the “Stay Safe All Day” campaign, focusing workplace inspections in areas of high transmission, including break rooms, and providing new educational materials to employers to promote safe behaviour before, during and after work.

Inspectors will focus on workplaces with reported COVID-19 outbreaks, manufacturing businesses, warehouses, distribution centres, food processing operations, construction projects and publicly accessible workplaces deemed essential, such as grocery stores.

In his statement for CME, Darby highlighted the protocols the sector has already put into place, including screening workers and sending non-essential staff to work remotely.

“The sector is expected to be at the forefront of the province’s economic recovery and provides many essential goods to the people of Ontario who are eager to buy local products, as we’ve seen with our very successful Ontario Made program launched last year,” Darby says.

“To buy local, we need to produce local.”

Workers may be eligible for funding

If an employee becomes infected with COVID-19, they may be entitled to federally funded paid sick leave of up to $500 a week for two weeks.

Workers can also access Canada’s Recovery Caregiver Benefit of up to $500 per week for up to 26 weeks if they are unable to work because they must care for their child under 12 years old or a family member who needs supervised care.

Over the summer, the government put non-unionized employees on Infectious Disease Emergency Leave during the COVID-19 outbreak any time their hours of work are temporarily reduced by their employer due to COVID-19, ensuring businesses aren’t forced to terminate employees after their ESA temporary layoff periods have expired.

The federal government is also funding a temporary income support program that allows workers to take up to 10 days of leave related to COVID-19.

Case counts rising

As of Jan. 10, there were 215,782 reported COVID-19 cases and 4,983 related deaths in Ontario. Over 130,000 doses have been administered provincewide.

Government representatives say that since the implementation of the provincial shutdown over two weeks ago, the latest modelling trends in key public health indicators have continued to worsen, forecasting an overwhelming of the health system.

Escalating case counts have led to increasing hospitalization rates and intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy, which has resulted in cancellations of scheduled surgeries and procedures.

A full list of emergency orders under the EMPCA as well as orders under the ROA can be found on the e-Laws website and at Ontario.ca/alert.

This article was originally published Jan. 12 and updated Jan. 13 with the statements from Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters.