UPDATED: Ontario Announces COVID-19 Inspections

Ed. Note: This post was updated to reflect Ontario’s expanded workplace inspections (which began with a “big box” store blitz). 

To ensure its COVID-19 rules are being followed at essential businesses, the Ontario government announced that provincial offences officers will be conducting workplace inspections across the province.

New COVID-19 Rules

Stay-at-Home Order

stay at home

As of January 14, 2021, the entire province is subject to a “stay-at-home order“. This order lists the circumstances when individuals are permitted to leave their homes.

The list of permitted activities includes:

  • working at a workplace when an employer has determined that the nature of the work requires an individual to attend in-person;
  • obtaining specified goods and services, such as attending medical appointments and purchasing food, beverages, personal care items and medications.

For the complete list of what’s permitted, see the order.

Open Businesses

Many retail stores must remain closed for in-person sales, and can only offer curbside pick-up or delivery. For those stores that are permitted to open (other than grocery and drug stores) they now must restrict their hours of operation to 7 am to 8 pm. Shopping malls are also subject to these limits, but may open for longer hours to permit access to grocery and drug stores.

Businesses that may remain open are subject to a maximum capacity of 25-50%. Retail businesses must post a sign in a conspicuous location visible to the public that states their applicable maximum capacity.

All open businesses must prepare and make available a Safety Plan.

Masks & Physical Distancing

Since last fall, business owners/managers have had to ensure that anyone in an indoor area of the business wears a mask, and members of the public maintain a physical distance of at least two metres.

Now individuals who go to an open business (i.e., to obtain permitted goods and services) are also subject to (enforceable) personal duties to wear masks and ensure physical distancing.

  • Every person at an open business must wear a mask that covers their mouth, nose and chin when they are in an indoor area of the business. (This is subject to certain exceptions such as medical reasons and accommodation needs).
  • Members of the public at an open business must maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person. This is subject to exceptions for: caregivers, members of the person’s household, and individuals with masks who are completing transactions or passing each other in confined locations.

COVID-19 inspections

COVID-19 Inspections

Effective immediately, more than 300 officers will be visiting workplaces permitted to open during the provincial shutdown, including:

  • retail establishments (including “big box” establishments);
  • restaurants providing take-out meals;
  • essential service-sector establishments (such as gas stations); and
  • farming operations.

The government’s inspection blitz will ensure that workers and patrons are wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and following health and safety measures. Supervisors, employees and patrons who are not complying with these requirements may be ticketed.

Corporations can be fined $1,000 for failing to comply with orders under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act and the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Individuals, including employees and patrons, can also be fined $750 for failing to comply with orders under the Acts.

More significant violations can lead to charges and fines (on conviction) of up to:

  • $100,000 for individuals, plus imprisonment for up to one year;
  • $500,000 for directors and officers of corporations, plus imprisonment for up to one year;
  • $10,000,000 for corporations.

Inspectors and officers may also temporarily close a premise and disperse groups of more than five people.