Ministry investigating report of inspector visiting business without mask

MINTO – The province is investigating reports that one of its inspectors visited at least one local business unmasked during an inspection blitz to check for compliance with COVID-19 pandemic-related orders.

Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) inspectors were in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health region from Feb. 25 to 28, as part of a blitz including big box, discount and grocery stores, personal services, restaurants, gyms, convenience stores and gas stations.

Officers issued 28 tickets, 51 occupational health and safety orders and 114 formal warnings.

“Three of the most common contraventions were that businesses were not actively screening everyone who works on site before they entered, they were not adhering to capacity limits, and didn’t have safety plans,” states a March 3 release from the ministry.

On Feb. 27 social media posts alleged an inspector wearing clothing with Ministry of Labour identification entered a restaurant in Clifford while not wearing a mask.

The inspector reportedly walked past numerous patrons and spoke to a server and the manager, before eventually leaving the establishment and returning with a mask on.

Photos circulating on social media show a man alleged to be an inspector on the streets of Clifford and inside the restaurant with no mask on. A government of Ontario car is also pictured on a street in Clifford.

Further reports allege two inspectors entering a premises in Arthur over the objections of staff after being asked to wait outside due to a COVID-related limit on the number of people allowed inside at one time.

In response to inquiries from the Advertiser, MLTSD officials stated, “The ministry learned of the incidents in question and is currently investigating the matter along with the Enforcement Officer.”

“The health and safety of workers and customers is our government’s top priority,” stated spokesperson Harry Godfrey in an email.

“Since the pandemic began, Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development inspectors have conducted 41,414 COVID-19-related field visits, issued 43,245 orders on those visits, and stopped unsafe work 69 times.

“Inspectors are expected to adhere to the health and safety measures they are enforcing. Anyone in violation of COVID-19 health and safety protocols can be ticketed or charged under the Reopening Ontario Act, regardless of their employer.”

Ministry officials note that inspectors are not exempt from requirements to wear masks if required by the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA) apart from the exemptions that apply to all members of the public.

Capacity limit requirements in the ROA are in place to limit the number of members of the public in businesses or facilities open to the public. They do not apply to workers in that workplace who are there performing their work.

“In any situation where members of the public or workplace parties have questions or comments about an inspection or an inspector we encourage them to contact the manager of the local ministry office who will be able to address any concerns they may have.

“To reach the manager of your local MLTSD office, please call the Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008,” officials state.