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Ministry of Labour issues 9 unsafe work orders at two Ontario jails after COVID outbreak

Last Updated Feb 5, 2021 at 12:38 pm EDT

Maplehurst Correction Complex entrance seen in an undated file photo. CITYNEWS

The Ministry of Labour has issued nine orders for unsafe work conditions against the provincial government related to COVID-19 protocols after hundreds of staff and inmates tested positive for the virus at a pair of correctional facilities.

The orders, obtained by CityNews, follow several field visits by Ministry of Labour inspectors to the Maplehurst Correctional Centre in Milton, and include several troubling findings such as:

  • screenings were not always being performed properly for staff entering the facility
  • clear guidelines were not provided to staff conducting the screenings
  • social distancing measures were not in place for the staff lunchroom
  • some high-touch areas are not being regularly cleaned or disinfected
  • staff were not properly instructed on how to use PPE in isolation areas of the jail

 

The Ministry of the Solicitor General has until next week to comply with the orders.

The institution has been grappling with a major outbreak for the past several weeks, prompting the Ontario government to stop accepting new inmates at the provincial jail since January. The entire facility has been in lockdown for over a week, and while voluntary on-site testing is available, the number of COVID cases continue to climb.

On Wednesday, there were 129 positive cases among inmates at Maplehurst. By the end of day Thursday, those numbers had jumped up to 186. There are 52 active cases among staff.

Vanier – an adjacent correctional facility for women – has 28 active cases among staff and inmates.

CityNews reached out to the Ministry of the Solicitor General for comment and next steps it plans to take to better protect staff and inmates.

The Ministry responded on Friday, acknowledging the workplace orders and saying it will work with staff at Maplehurst to “ensure the appropriate use of PPE, management of common materials and spaces and enhanced cleaning protocols are in place.”

“The Ministry continues to reinforce the important role that workplace safety measures including handwashing, wearing PPE and physical distancing have in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.”