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Landscape Ontario urges most member firms to stop work under COVID-19 regulations

COVID-19 regulations

Landscape Ontario (LO) has made it clear that it believes most landscaping work must stop as the provincial government intensifies COVID-19 essential services regulations

“Today, premier Ford made a new announcement,” Dave Wright, president, Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association, and the group’s executive director Tony DiGiovanni said in a statement last Friday.

“The tone was much more severe as well as urgent. He presented alarming projections about the potential devastation the COVID pandemic could cause. The Government also amended the Essential Workplaces List to be more restrictive. Many lives can be saved through our collective and unified action.”

“Yesterday (April 2) we made the statement: ‘Don’t work unless you have explicit permission from the government. Even if you do, please use every precaution.’”

“We want you to know the statement was composed after lengthy debate. It was not developed lightly. The COVID crisis is serious business fraught with emotion, fear, despair, anxiety and even anger. Lives, businesses, jobs, reputations and economies are  all at risk. Here is the rationale for our position,” the trade group said in the memo, noting that:

  • Virus numbers continue to rise exponentially and so are the deaths.
  • We want to show solidarity with frontline health workers who put their lives at risk. They are asking everyone to curtail activities.
  • We received many calls from members, employees of members, family of employees and the general public asking us to be clearer in our messaging.
  • The Premier announced alarming and startling projection numbers. It is necessary for everyone to take action. Otherwise we are facing thousands of deaths.
  • Our profession will be under public scrutiny because we are so visible. (Especially in spring).
  • We have been receiving negative feedback from the public and other members about our industry’s regular work activities being essential during a health crisis.
  • We cannot get government clarity with respect to our essential status. All we get is conflicting and confusing perspectives.
  • We want to protect our members from serious potential reputational and regulatory risks.

“It is important to note we are not making judgements on those members who choose to work. We know you may fit under the Essential Workplaces Guidelines. We know the immense economic and contractual pressures you are under. We know you want to feed your families and the families of your employees. We know that many of your customers want you to work. We feel for your predicament.

“However if you choose to work here is the framework that must be followed,” the LO memo noted:

  • You must provide a workplace that is safe for everyone. This includes you, your staff, your clients and the public. Ensure your health and safety policies and procedures are up to date and specific. You will find ideas on the LO resources page.
  • Make sure you fall under the Essential Workplaces list.
  • Take the time to get a legal opinion or the opinion of a government official. This will not be easy to do. We tried to get clarity and failed. All we got was the repeated admonishment to make our own interpretation of the Essential Workplaces list. If you are stopped you will have to prove you are operating under the Essential Workplaces document. The fines for an offence are considerable. Here is a website you can use to check with the government.
  • Make sure to speak with your insurance broker. There is a risk that if it is deemed that you are illegally operating against an Emergency Order, your insurance may not cover you. This could also apply to WSIB coverages. This is why we used “explicit government approval” in our statement.
  • Make sure you restrict your activities to “essential” work. The definition may not be as clear as you want but in most cases “essential” work is self evident.
  • Make sure you protect the reputation of your company as well as the profession. The public is scared and they are watching you.

“These are difficult times for all,” Landscape Ontario says. “We will get through this together. Stay safe.”