Provincial workplace blitz inspecting Waterloo Region businesses
KITCHENER -- Boots are on the ground in Waterloo Region as part of the province's new workplace inspection blitz.
Business owners convicted of breaking COVID-19 rules could face fines of up to $10 million and jail time.
For months, the region's top doctor has said keeping COVID-19 out of the workplace has been a major issue. Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said health measures among coworkers were problematic, citing concerns of no masks or physical distancing in staff rooms or during breaks.
Local officials have said they're getting tougher on businesses breaking COVID-19 rules, pivoting from education to enforcement. The province has already sent 30 provincial offences officers to the region.
"To carry out enforcement of high-risk businesses that we're seeing spread because people are letting their guards down," Regional Chair Karen Redman said.
Premier Doug Ford announced the official inspection blitz on Thursday.
"To anyone who knowingly and deliberately breaks the rules, we'll not hesitate to fine you and shut you down," he said. "The virus spreads like wildfire, it hurts your customers, it hurts your workers, it hurts your community."
A total of 39 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in connection to an outbreak at a Kitchener restaurant. An outbreak at a gym led to 14 cases.
Businesses now need to have a pandemic safety plan in place. Earlier this month, officials carried out a two-day blitz in Peel and found more than 80 per cent of businesses in compliance.
"The successful campaigns in Peel Region and London Middlesex and now in Waterloo are just the beginning," said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development.
The fines for breaking the rules under the Reopening Ontario Act range from $750 to $10 million.
"We won't hesitate to ticket any and all businesses that are blatantly breaking the rules," McNaughton said.
The province recommends screening people before they enter a workplace, supporting workers who need to self-isolate, maintain two metres of physical distancing, have people wear masks and encourage hand hygiene. More information on making a COVID-19 plan for Ontario businesses can be found here.
The region didn't announce any fines during its last COVID-19 update. Another update is scheduled for Friday.