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Ontario trying to avoid outbreaks on farms this year with inspection blitz

Fines and jail time are possible under the OHSA, but that's nothing new for farmers
(Stock photo)

The Ontario government's inspection safety blitz regarding the Reopening Ontario Act is expanding to farms in the province, specifically those that host foreign workers.

The goal of the inspections is to make sure farms are ready to go for the upcoming season, with precautions in place to avoid outbreaks like those seen last summer.

The inspection blitz is nothing new to farmers according to the Ontario Federal of Agriculture (OFA), who says farmers support these inspections and health measures.

"A healthy worker is a good worker," said Mark Reusser, Vice President of the OFA. "We need workers, and we need to have them work in a safe and secure environment."

The potential fines are quite steep for going against the OHSA, though inspectors have the option to issue orders instead. These fines are not new to farmers.

"The maximum penalty upon conviction under the OHSA is $1.5 million for a corporation and $100,000 for an individual," said a release from the Ontario government on Wednesday. "Individuals may also be imprisoned for up to 12 months on conviction."

Inspectors will be putting a special focus on COVID-19 measures, including "hand hygiene, masking, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, and proper physical distancing between workers; Enhancing protection for temporary foreign agricultural workers living and working on farming and agricultural operations by ensuring employers are actively screening workers for COVID-19, including completion of a daily COVID-19 questionnaire."

"Our farmers, agri-food workers, greenhouse operators and food processors are working hard to keep their operations safe while continuing to provide us with a steady and reliable food supply," said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. "Since last spring, we have taken several measures to support them, including reinforcing public health protocols, making investments to increase operational capacity and helping to address labour challenges. Agri-food workplace inspections are part of our continued efforts to raise awareness, and prevent and control COVID-19 outbreaks."

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