New program offers tailored COVID-19 services for Ontario agri-food workplaces
Program provides agricultural producers with funded support services ahead of next COVID-19 wave
TORONTO — Ontario agricultural operations, including greenhouses, will be able to benefit from a free, government-funded consultation service to help choose the best options for protecting their workers from COVID-19 and make the most of their investment. Even as new COVID-19 cases start to subside, business owners are urged to take precautions against potential waves of the pandemic in the near future.
Carried out by experts at Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) and tasked by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), the program provides each eligible agricultural operation with two days of consulting and training services to help manage the risks in their operation.
According to the announcement, the program also offers a pandemic recovery toolkit on measures for managing the risk of exposure to COVID-19, awareness training, as well as additional resources to support businesses as they implement measures to protect their employees.
Each two-day consultation is being funded entirely through the Agri-food Workplace Protection Program. There are 125 spots available for agricultural operators and they’re approved on a first-come, first-served basis, according to John Aird, director of strategic integration at WSPS.
“We’ll go in and we’ll start with an assessment,” Aird said in a prepared statement. The WSPS expert will look to see what’s already in place, how well it’s working and identify areas where operators can better protect employees from contracting the virus. Examples include installing barriers or changing up cleaning procedures.
While the program ends March 2021, operators should take advantage of these services as soon as possible.
“This program comes at an opportune time,” said Dean Anderson, WSPS strategic advisor on agricultural initiatives, in a prepared statement. “Adopting essential practices now offers businesses long-term value. They’ll be better prepared for the next wave or the next pandemic — something some experts are saying is inevitable.”
While operations may need to make monetary investments to enact some of the recommendations from WSPS, operators can take advantage of another funding stream under the Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program. It can help cover 70% of the costs, or up to $7,500 for implementing those measures.
This includes modifications to reconfigure workstations, such as installing shielding or barriers, purchase of protective equipment, such as masks, gloves and other protective gear, and medical equipment. This can include body temperature remote sensors, thermometers and cameras and COVID-related testing equipment.
Businesses wishing to apply for support under the Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection program must apply through OMAFRA, separate from the WSPS consultation services.