Ontario Continues to Protect Agri-food Workers
LEAMINGTON — The Ontario government is continuing its efforts to work for workers, including protecting agri-food workers against COVID-19, by distributing up to 5,500 free HEPA filters to improve ventilation in agri-food congregate living settings. This will add an additional layer of protection to keep agri-food workers safe and reduce the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks on farms and in workplaces across the food supply chain.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, our government has provided unprecedented levels of support to protect our provincial agri-food supply chain, and it is critical that we continue doing everything we can to keep agri-food workers safe,” said Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “These HEPA filters will provide farmers with another tool to use to help in the fight against COVID-19, all while ensuring agri-food workers have a safe environment to work and live in, and people can continue to access the safe and healthy food grown and made in Ontario.”
HEPA filter units, in conjunction with other prevention and control strategies, can help control and remove harmful airborne pathogens and improve air quality. Farms and agri-food businesses that employ and provide housing to international agri-food workers are eligible for one HEPA filter unit per employer-provided congregate living setting. These units will be deployed in partnership with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services at no cost to employers through the voluntary Registry of Employers International Agri-food Workers.
“We appreciate the Ontario government’s commitment to delivering another tool that will assist greenhouses in keeping their workers safe and mitigating COVID-19 risks,” said George Gilvesy, Chair of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers. “Access to these HEPA air filters will help to support local food production and ensure that fresh vegetables are on grocery store shelves and our tables.”
This initiative builds on the supports provided to ensure the agri-food sector has access to the resources it needs to respond to COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of workers, such as distributing personal protective equipment and rapid antigen tests (RATs) and providing $36 million through the Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program.
“Ontario’s fruit and vegetable growers have worked hard during the pandemic, adapting to evolving public health requirements to keep our critical agri-food workforce safe,” said Bill George, Chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association. “The ongoing support of the Ontario government to provide tools like HEPA air filters to help in our efforts to feed Ontarians cannot be overstated.”
It is important to note that international agri-food workers are also a vital part of the province’s agricultural workforce and Ontario is working closely with municipal, provincial, federal and health partners and the farming community to help farmers protect all of their employees during the pandemic.
- The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has developed a voluntary registry of employers under the agricultural streams of the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to enhance its support of the agri-food sector.
- Eligible employers that require additional HEPA filters can apply for financial assistance through the Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program until February 15, 2022.
- Other supports are available through the Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program until February 15, 2022 to help agri-businesses guard against the spread of COVID-19 in agri-food workplaces and ensure worker/employee health and safety.
- The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services is enabling the deployment of critical supplies, equipment and services to where they are needed throughout the pandemic to protect the province’s supply chain.