Public health issues class order to protect migrant workers, prevent COVID-19 transmission

Region of Waterloo Public Health is ordering current and potential employers of migrant workers to implement safety measures that reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission on farms and workplaces.

There are at least 17 known businesses that employ migrant workers in the region

The class order aims to reduce the risk of virus transmission in workplaces. (CBC)

The region's medical officer of health is ordering current and potential employers of migrant workers to put in safety measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission on farms and workplaces.

The Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services issued the class order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act on Tuesday.

It requires employers and temporary help agencies to develop a COVID-19 workplace safety plan and submit it for approval two weeks prior to the arrival of migrant workers. If workers have already arrived, then employers have until April 30 to submit a plan. They must also outline a quarantine plan for workers.

Employers should also be prepared in the case of an outbreak by having employee contact information and isolation space available, it said.

The region said there are at least 17 local businesses known to employ migrant workers. A notice will be delivered directly to these businesses.

There were several outbreaks across Ontario farms between May 2020 and March 2021 that resulted in the death of three people. This led the province to recommend local public health units issue orders to employers of migrant and agricultural workers.

'Greater risk of infection'

The order noted that migrant workers have a greater risk of infection because they live in communal spaces.

Those arriving to Canada must provide documentation showing they have tested negative 48 hours prior to entering the country. They will then quarantine for 14 days and cannot work during this time.

Employers are responsible for making arrangements for the workers' essentials — including food — while in quarantine. "Meals should be nutritious and well-balanced and you should try to accommodate any cultural and dietary restrictions and ensure food is stored in a safe manner," the order said.

Living accommodations for workers must be inspected and approved and migrant workers must be assigned a cohort.

The order also said migrant workers must exclusively work at one farm or workplace. Exceptions can be made in situations where it's safe.

Failure to comply with the order may result in legal action or thousands of dollars in fines, said public health. 


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