Ontario inspectors find 36 stores violating COVID-19 rules during big-box safety blitz

(CTV)

Safety inspectors found more than 30 businesses violating COVID-19 safety rules during a big-box blitz across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development said Sunday. 

The ministry said that inspectors visited 110 stores on Saturday and found 31 stores in violation of provincial orders, which is equal to about 70 per cent compliance. 

The government said 11 formal warnings and 11 tickets were issued on Saturday as a result of the blitz. 

Five additional stores were found violating health orders on Sunday, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said.  He added that on Saturday there were five box-box corporations slapped with fines.

The ministry did not name the stores they said were found violating the orders.

Individuals found violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act can be fined up to $100,000 and imprisoned for as long as a year, while corporations can be fined up to $1.5 million per charge.

More than 34,000 COVID-19-related workplace inspections have happened since the beginning of the pandemic.

McNaughton has said inspectors are focusing on compliance with masking and physical distancing rules, as well as other health guidelines. He said they have the authority to temporarily shut down facilities found to be breaching the rules, and to disperse groups of more than five people.

The government said big-box stores would remain a key target during the provincewide safety blitz. The ministry issued a document late last week saying inspections would also involve workplaces which reported COVID-19 outbreaks and businesses focused on manufacturing, warehousing, distribution centres and food processing.

Premier Doug Ford, who has faced criticism for allowing big-box stores to remain open for on-site shopping while smaller businesses are restricted to curbside pickup or online sales, vowed this week to crack down on big lineups and other infractions at large retailers.

The weekend blitz comes days after the province enacted an order requiring residents to stay at home for all but essential purposes, such as shopping for groceries or accessing health care.

Source: CTV, January 17, 2021.

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