Ontario, Canada: Workplace Blitzes Announced and then Expanded

On January 14, 2021, Ontario announced the start of a workplace health and safety inspection blitz of big-box stores in Toronto, Hamilton, Peel, York, and Durham.  A week later, Ontario announced it had expanded this program to additional business sectors.

Initial Inspection Blitz

Last weekend, approximately 50 ministry inspectors and local bylaw and police officers started visiting big-box stores to ensure that workers and patrons were:

  • Wearing masks;
  • Maintaining physical distance; and
  • Following health and safety measures. 

Inspectors could:

  • Ticket supervisors, employees and patrons who were not in compliance with COVID-19 safety requirements;
  • Temporarily close a premise; and
  • Disperse groups of more than five people. 

Inspection Expansion

On January 20, 2021, Ontario announced that, starting immediately and with the support of 300 officers, it was expanding its workplace inspection campaign, and would be visiting a variety of workplaces allowed to open during the provincial shutdown, including:

  • Retail establishments (including big-box stores);
  • Restaurants providing take-out meals;
  • Essential service-sector establishments (e.g., gas stations); and
  • Farming operations. 

Ontario indicated that the inspection efforts announced on both January 14, 2021, and January 20, 2021, build on its “Stay Safe All Day” campaign announced on January 12, 2021.  

Penalties for Violations


Corporations can be fined $1,000 for failing to comply with orders under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) and the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (the “Acts”). 


Individuals (including employees and patrons) can be fined $750 for failing to comply with orders under the Acts. 

More Serious Violations

If a violation is more serious, a person can be charged with failing to comply with an order under the Acts.  If the person is convicted, the court can impose fines up to:

  • $100,000 for individuals; and
  • $500,000 for directors and officers of a corporation.

Individuals and directors and officers of a corporation can also be imprisoned for up to one year. 

Corporations convicted of an offence can be fined up to $10,000,000. 

Bottom Line for Employers

Retail establishments (including big-box stores), restaurants providing take-out meals, essential service-sector establishments, and farming operations in Toronto, Hamilton, Peel, York, and Durham, are on notice that they will be inspected.  The penalties for non-compliance with orders under the Acts are significant for workers, patrons, directors and officers of a corporation, and the corporation, especially for more serious violations. Employers are strongly encouraged to ensure that they are in compliance with all orders under the Acts so that when inspected there will be no penalties for violations.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.