COVID-19 Outbreak results in $125,000 Fine for Norfolk County Company

Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development

Convicted: Scotlynn Sweetpac Growers Inc., a farming operation in the municipality of Norfolk County.

Location of Workplace: 1150 Vittoria Rd. RR1, Vittoria, Ontario

Description of Offence: Scotlynn Sweetpac Growers Inc. failed to isolate workers after a COVID-19 outbreak

Date of Offence: Between May 13, 2020 and June 1, 2020

Date of Conviction: June 6, 2022

Penalty Imposed:

  • Following a guilty plea in the Ontario Court of Justice in Simcoe, Ontario Scotlynn Sweetpac Growers Inc. was fined $125,000 by Justice Gethin Edward; Crown Counsels Indira Stewart, Neil Dietrich and Madeleine Chin-Yee.
  • The court also imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.

Background:

  • On May 28, 2020, the first positive case of COVID-19 at Scotlynn Sweetpac Growers Inc. was identified.
  • The following day, Haldimand Norfolk Health Unit declared an outbreak at the workplace. It declared an outbreak because two or more cases were identified within a 14-day period and it was reasonable to assume those people were also infected in the workplace.
  • On May 29 and 30, the District Health Unit conducted more testing, which revealed a total of 196 positive cases of COVID-19 among the 216 agricultural workers on the farm.
  • Although most of those who tested positive were asymptomatic, three agricultural workers needed to be hospitalized.
  • Of the three workers who were hospitalized, one worker died as a result of the virus.
  • Before being hospitalized, the deceased worker was bedridden for several days in the bunkhouse where they lived with other workers. They had symptoms that were typical of COVID-19, but they were not isolated. Bunkhouses housed anywhere from eight to approximately 50 workers.
  • Clause 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires an employer to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers.
  • The employer failed to take the reasonable precaution of isolating COVID-19 symptomatic workers from other workers to protect workers from the transmission of COVID-19 at the workplace, and as such, committed an offence contrary to subsection 66(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.