OHS Canada Magazine

Q&A: Preparing for a workplace inspection during COVID-19

Ontario has issued more than 10,000 orders since March


Since March 11, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development has conducted 14,339 field visits related to COVID-19. (Ontario.ca)

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, inspections by provincial inspectors have increased in Ontario.

Anne Duffy, director of the occupational health and safety branch at the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development sheds some light on how the provincial government is working to ensure compliance through the pandemic.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

OHS Canada: What should employers expect from a provincial inspector if their workplace was to receive a visit during COVID-19?

Anne Duffy: Inspectors will attend the workplace to audit for compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It may be specific to COVID prevention but may also be a look at all workplace hazards.

The inspector will attempt to maintain physical distancing during their field visit. They self-screen daily and do not attend any workplace if they fail the self-assessment.

Inspectors will make every attempt to follow employer’s measures and procedures to manage the pandemic.

During this time, what compliance issues are you specifically looking for during a workplace inspection?

AD: Measures and procedures to manage COVID exposures and transmission will be an area of focus.

They include screening, hand hygiene, maintaining physical distancing and more.

Inspectors may also look at workplace specific hazards in the work done at a specific workplace such as guarding, falls and exposure to chemicals.

What advice do you have for employers to ensure their workplace is compliant to provincial health and safety standards?

AD: There are many sector specific guidance documents that are easily accessible from Ontario.ca.

Also, engage with your workers through their health and safety representatives or joint health and safety committee to identify solutions that will keep workers safe in your workplace.

What are the statistics regarding total workplace investigations and orders issued during COVID-19?

AD: Since March 11, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development has conducted 14,339 field visits related to COVID-19 — including both proactive inspections and reactive investigations — and issued 10,263 orders while on these visits.

What has been the most common compliance issue found in Ontario workplaces?

AD: Some of the common compliance issues found were lack of PPE, lack of physical distancing, unsanitary conditions and not taking proper COVID-19 precautions.

Statistics current as of July 16, 2020.