A health and safety worker screens employees for Covid-19 symptoms before they enter the building
There is no doubt about it: the Covid-19 pandemic has caused massive changes in how we work, especially when it comes to workplace health and safety.
From mandatory masks and temperature screening, to plexiglass partitions and work-from-home orders. Businesses across the planet are racing to revise their occupational health and safety (OHS) policies.
Not all companies are keeping up. Global retail giant, Amazon, is facing a lawsuit from its warehouse employees, who say management has failed to protect their health and safety during the outbreak.
In Quebec, teachers protested back-to-school orders, claiming the government doesn’t have an adequate health and safety plan for staff and students.
Ontario is also feeling the heat. The province has the second-highest number of Covid-19 infections in Canada and over 3000 deaths to date.
In response, the Ontario government has just announced a multi-million dollar investment in occupational health and safety, which includes hiring almost 100 new health and safety inspectors.
Experts are predicting a similar rise in employment throughout the entire OHS industry, not just during the pandemic, but for years to come. Here’s a look at what’s driving this trend.
Thousands of Covid-19 health & safety Complaints in Ontario
Since the start of the pandemic, the Ontario Ministry of Labour has been flooded with health and safety complaints, and a huge rise in inspections and compliance orders:
- 7,500 Covid-19 related health and safety complaints
- 19,400 Covid-19-related inspections and investigations
- 16,520 health and safety orders issued
Infections and deaths in nursing homes, farms, factories, and other settings are raising the alarm, prompting a closer look at worker safety.
Employers are struggling to implement the new Covid regulations while keeping their businesses afloat. Meanwhile, workers are fighting back against unsafe conditions that expose them (and their families) to infection.
One thing is clear: workplaces are a key battleground in the fight against Covid-19. The Institute for Work and Health (IWH) recently reported that 20% of all adult Covid infections happen at work.
“One in five (20 per cent) of COVID-19 infections among working-age adults in Ontario can be attributed to workplace transmission.” (At Work, Issue 101, 2020)
Ontario Invests $11 Million to Hire Health & Safety Workers
To help stop the spread of Covid-19, Ontario will invest $11.6 million to hire 98 frontline health and safety inspectors.
They will be tasked with ensuring business and organizations across the province are complying with Covid-19 safety measures. The health and safety inspectors will have the power to:
- inspect any workplace and ensure they have Covid protections in place
- investigate any potentially hazardous situation, critical injury, fatality and work refusal
- order compliance with the legislation
- stop unsafe work from being performed
- recommend and initiate prosecutions
The Toronto Star reports this is the biggest health and safety inspection team Ontario has ever hired. Labour Minister, Monte McNaughton, made the following statement:
“Our government is taking the steps necessary to protect Ontario workers on the job and keep our economy on the road to full recovery.
“By adding more inspectors to our team, we can respond faster to situations as they arise and help make sure that every office, plant, store and job site in this province is safe, during Covid-19 and beyond.”
Note that McNaughton said demand for better workplace health and safety will extend beyond the pandemic.
This is not a temporary situation. It’s clear that lessons learned during the pandemic will shape OHS policies and procedures throughout the province for years to come.
Demand for Health & Safety Professionals after the Pandemic
Experts are predicting that demand for health and safety professionals will rise both during and after the pandemic.
As businesses open up again after the lockdowns, new health and safety staff are needed to create and enforce special hygiene measures.
On a larger scale, companies are hiring OHS managers who can improve their overall health and safety strategy, not just during the crisis but over the long term.
There are positions at all levels. From entry-level OHS jobs to high level leadership roles.
In an interview with CTV News, Jessica Culo (owner of staffing company Express Employment Professionals), says demand for health and safety professionals is on the rise across the board.
"All organizations are looking to enhance their health and safety programs. Companies have to make sure that they're going overboard in that communication, because they need their employees to feel safe."
Companies also need consumers to feel safe. For example, our expectations for hygiene in stores has changed and may never return to pre-Covid norms.
Retailers must adapt to this new reality—and they’ll need skilled health and safety professionals to make it happen.
Interested in health and safety careers?
Herzing College offers a 12-month Occupational Health and Safety training program. The diploma is available in Toronto, Ottawa, and Winnipeg. Students can also study online.
Graduates are qualified for jobs as Health and Safety Officers, Health and Safety Coordinators, and Health and Safety Administrators.
Chat live with an Admissions Advisor to learn more. Or click below to explore courses, career options, and admissions information in more detail.