COVID-19’s Impact on Employees in the Transportation Industryachkarlaw-admin
While many businesses were ordered to close across Ontario due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario’s transportation services are deemed an essential service and as such, are continuing to operate. This is an industry where for many positions and employees, working from home is not an option.
In Toronto for example, the Toronto Transit Commission is continuing to operate and its employees are continuing to work their normal shifts—after all, they help get other essential workers to their place of business.
Considering the ongoing nature of the pandemic, it is important for employees in the transportation industry to know what measures are being taken and how they might be affected going forward.
Transportation Operations Maintained
Despite the pandemic, people still need transportation to get to and from their homes and their essential workplaces. With the exception of the 900 series express busses, the TTC’s bus, streetcar, subway, and wheeltrans services are operating as normal. TTC drivers are still expected to pick up riders, and subways remain open to the public.
While the Government of Ontario has now issued a ban on gatherings of five (5) or more people, the TTC and other transportation services must still maintain operations. Busses, streetcars, and subways will continue to gather people, leaving open the possibility of overcrowding during busy periods.
Measures Taken to Protect Employees
Whether moving people or moving products to people, transportation employers must limit safety risks to their employees and the public. With regards to their duty to take reasonable measures to ensure a safe workplace environment, what is “reasonable” may entail additional cleaning and sanitation efforts, as more people use the transportation services and as surfaces are frequently touched.
An example of additional measures may also include masks and protective shields, and limited access through the front door near the driver, as seen with TTC operators. The TTC has also instructed that all employees who have travelled, have come into contact with someone showing COVID-19 symptoms, or are generally not feeling well to stay home and self-isolate for fourteen (14) days.
Continued Risks to Employees
There may still be risks to transportation employees due to the increase of exposure. On March 19, 2020, a TTC maintenance worker tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in around 170 other employees going into self-isolation.
The Ontario Ministry of Labour inspector also recently found that a refusal to work by some TTC employees due to concerns that cleaning measures were inadequate did not meet the criteria to permit a refusal of unsafe work. However, it is important that jurisdictions and nature of the work are important factors and each case is different, and the worker does not need to prove they are actually at risk.
Therefore, as matters are often facts-based, employees who still have questions about continued risks and their right to refuse what they believe is unsafe work should contact a lawyer. Where an employee has human rights needs, those needs should also be explored during this time of an increased need for workplace health and safety.
If you are an employer or an employee in the transportation industry and wish to know more about your rights and options during the COVID-19 pandemic, our team of experienced legal professional at Achkar Law can help.