In this Ontario Labour Relations Board decision of December 22, 2020, Vice-Chair Mitchell heard an appeal of an Inspector’s refusal to make an order under section 61(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the “Act“).
In May 2020, employees requested that Maplewood Nursing Home (the “Employer”) install a temporary plexiglass barrier at the nursing station to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. An Inspector visited the premises and on June 4, 2020 issued a refusal to make an order under section 61(1) of the Act.
The Board noted that “the real issue is whether Maplewood is required to install this barrier pursuant to section 25(2)(h) of the Act which requires an employer to “take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker”.”
In the appeal, UFCW Local 175 (the “Union”) argued that the Employer failed to take the request for a barrier seriously and that the prospect of constant decontamination protocols at the nursing station was unrealistic.
The Employer argued that it had complied with the requirements of both the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skill Development and Public Health Ontario, and that “the Act does not require, and the Employer cannot provide the impossible which is an absolute guarantee of protection to staff.”
Ultimately, the Board concluded that in the circumstances, installing a plexiglass or similar barrier on the nursing station countertop “is
a reasonable measure for the protection of the employees so long as the threat of the spread of the COVID-19 virus is present.”
As a result, the Board ordered that a barrier be installed as per the Union’s request.