Agri-food worker protection funds increased

Program provides protective equipment and funds ways to separate workers

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The Ontario provincial government is investing $15 million more to fund health and safety protection for farm workers.

The Agri-food Workplace Protection Program was originally funded with $4.5 million from the federal and provincial government, but the province is now committing up to $15 million to enhance health and safety measures on farms and in food processing facilities to reduce risk from COVID-19.

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Why it matters: There have been large COVID-19 outbreaks at farms where numerous workers are needed to plant and harvest vegetable crops.

“Today’s investment will allow farmers to adapt to this new environment and implement additional health and safety measures during the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

The Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program provides cost-share funding for farmers to purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and implement workplace modifications and other measures. By significantly expanding the program, farmers can take additional steps to improve health and safety for their workers and ensure the continued supply of locally grown food during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Provincially licensed meat packers can also access the program.

Some of the measures already approved through the first intake of this program include purchases of PPE, temporary housing for ill workers, building physical barriers for worker separation, enhanced hand washing facilities and a tent rental to expand lunch room space.

The Ontario government is also supporting producers and other operations that experience unexpected costs for short-term accommodation and transportation as a result of the impacts of COVID-19.

OMAFRA has also partnered with the Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) to provide agri-food businesses, organizations and associations with educational resources, tools and consulting services to help them implement COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Additional details about businesses that may qualify can be found on the WSPS website.

The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development recently released safety guidelines for employers to help protect workers, customers, and the general public from COVID-19.

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