As Ontario prepares to reopen the economy, the province is providing employers with safety guidelines to protect workers, customers, and the general public from COVID-19. The guidelines provide practical recommendations so that employers reopen in a safe and responsible way.
On April 30, 2020, the Ontario government released its guidelines, providing sector-specific direction to those working in the manufacturing, food manufacturing and processing, restaurant and food service, and agricultural sectors. These measures adapt and build upon 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.
Ontario’s guidelines are specific to certain sectors, and recommend actions employers can take now to prepare themselves for operating during the COVID-19 outbreak when businesses start to reopen. The guidelines include, for example, practical methods for ensuring physical distancing, sanitation and other protective measures that can be taken to decrease the risk of transmitting COVID-19 in the workplace.
Under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers have a legal duty to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. This duty requires employers to perform their due diligence by taking reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of their workers. This duty is particularly important in the context of COVID-19, where workers and the public can contract COVID-19 if employers fail to take proper precautions to protect them.
Accordingly, employers should carefully review and implement the general guidelines, as well as the guidelines that relate to their particular workplace. Employers who fail to comply may be subject to charges and prosecution for failing to meet their legal duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Links to the Guidelines:
We are closely monitoring the situation and will provide updates as they become available.
Please contact your Baker McKenzie employment lawyer for more information.
You can also access our Coronavirus Resource Center for information on the impact of this situation on your business and what you can do to manage these risks. It covers areas of immediate concerns such as employer obligations, contract issues, supply chain disruption, financing and force majeure, as well as more forward looking issues such as practical impact on transactions and IPO activity.