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As Ontario enters into Stage 2 of opening its half used, half staffed, struggling economy employees are increasingly nervous about their own workplace safety.
While many businesses have implemented strict Covid-19 health policies and guidelines, others are just happy to be open and seem to be more concerned about making up the bottom line than safety guidelines.
Muskoka Post posed a question on our social media channels asking employees if their workplaces are following infection prevention protocols. We received messages from workers in various municipalities confessing that they don't feel safe at work as their employers are not following PPE recommendations, cleaning routines or social distancing. While employees for obvious reasons wished to remain anonymous messages such as these were common.
"We are sharing extension cords, hoses, vacuums, cleaning supplies. I'm not going to get sick due to poor management."
At today's Simcoe Muskoka health unit press conference Dr. Charles Gardner said he has been "concerned" since the opening of the economy about the "potential for workplace outbreaks." Gardner confirmed that a number of workplace outbreaks have already occurred on farms prior to Stage 2 opening.
"To me it's part of the risks inherent with workplaces and how careful businesses need to be for infection control and how diligent we need to be as a health unit to support them in that," he said.
So while the health unit will support businesses in implementing infection control health guidelines, we wanted to know what an employee can do if they feel they are not being protected at their workplace. The Ontario's Ministry of Labour supplied us with the following statement;
"Nothing is more important than protecting the health and well-being of Ontarians. If you’re feeling sick, you should stay home, self-isolate and get tested.
One of the government’s first actions in response to COVID-19 was passing a job-protected infectious disease emergency leave for workers. Workers do not have to choose between their job and their health.
Our Infectious Disease Emergency Leave protects any worker who is caring for a love one because of school closures or illness, self-isolates because they are following medical advice, or is under medical investigation. Workers would also be protected if he/she was directed by his employer to self-isolate."
We pressed on a little further to find out what if the employee wanted to continue working, however, wanted the workplace to follow Covid-19 health and safety guidelines. The ministry replied by advising that "any concerns about health and safety in a workplace should be brought to the attention of the employer or supervisor to resolve this matter internally.
Workers may wish to raise the issue with their joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative in their workplace.
If concerns remain, a worker should call the ministry’s Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008. An inspector may visit or call the workplace to determine if the employer is complying with OHSA and its regulations."