$10M available for some in agriculture sector for worker protection

File photo of an N95 mask courtesy of © CanStockPhoto.com/ninun

The province is expanding its Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program and pumping another $10 million into the pot.

The money will be used to reimburse farmers and agri-food operators to purchase personal protective equipment, enhance cleaning and disinfection and redesign workstations to better protect workers.

First introduced last year, the program was available to operations who hired five or more workers. One of the changes now includes operations that hire three or more workers.

While the program mostly targets fruit and vegetable growers, additional businesses and workers will be eligible including corn detasselers, transporters, hatcheries, and primary processing. That includes cutting, cleaning, packaging, storage and refrigeration of raw plant foods to prevent food from spoiling before it reaches consumers.

The program will start accepting applications April 22, is retroactive to March 13 and will run as long as there is money available.

There is a $15,000 cap per applicant.

“The OFVGA appreciates the continued funding to help offset some of the additional costs associated with ensuring the health and safety of farm workers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bill George, Chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association. “The health of our workforce is number one priority, as without these critical employees’ fruit and vegetable farmers would not be able to continue producing food for the people of Ontario.”

In addition, increased flexibility has been built into the program to ensure it can respond to emerging issues and risks.

The approval process has also been simplified and will be expedited to help support workplace health and safety in the agri-food sector.