Information about health inspections of area restaurants beauty/body art businesses and recreational water facilities is now much easier to find.
On July 1 the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit launched a new website and signage initiative aimed at better informing the public about the results of recent inspections.
The website called HKPR CheckINspection features details on recent inspections including whether the facility passed or failed as well as any infractions it may have received.
There will also now be bright green and red signs posted in businesses that display the most recent inspection results. Green means pass and red means the business is closed while dealing with the issues.
“The HKPR CheckINspection program is a win-win for both customers and businesses” Richard Ovcharovich manager of environmental health with the health unit said in a press release. “On the one hand the program is an easy way for people to check in on a business or service to see if it is following all safety and health regulations. For businesses the program can assure potential customers that they are serious about protecting their health and well being.”
Michael Chilvers general manager and chef at Red Umbrella Inn in Carnarvon said he thinks greater transparency about inspection results is good for public health.
“It ensures people are doing what they need to be doing. I think the guest or the person attending the restaurant should know how the restaurant’s caring for their kitchen and their food and if there is anything I think they deserve to know” he said.
As long as health inspectors are even-handed in how they conduct their evaluations of each establishment Chilvers said he was comfortable with the system.
He said it was important that contextual information was available to the public. For example there are cases where a business can pass an inspection while still having infractions. Infractions are noted on the signage as well as on the website although there is much more information online.
On the website the user can look up what the specific infraction was and make their own decision about whether that concerns them. The sign uses checkboxes to indicate infractions.
“Any critical infractions (such as time/temperature violations cross contamination lack of handwashing etc.) will be identified and a checkmark will be indicated on the form and will remain posted until the next inspection. Non-critical infractions would be at the discretion of the inspector based on previous compliance” Ovcharovich told the paper in response to questions last week.
There is no additional information about the nature of the infractions on the signage.
“Having said that the QR code on the sign can be scanned by patrons and it will take them to the CheckINspection website to get more details. The patrons can also request the operator to see the last inspection” he said.
Sue MacDonald of Fresh at Killara Station on Gelert Road said she supported the work of the health unit but thought the simple pass-fail system wasn’t nuanced enough.
“If it’s a fail the business is closed anyway” she said of the inspections. “If a business is closed a business is closed. You don’t need a sign on the window.”
She said a grading system like one she’s seen used in Australia would provide more contextual information. Overall her hope was that the health unit would work with businesses in order to keep the public safe but to also help businesses succeed.
“I really hope that it is good for all businesses and they are supported by the health department they are given the opportunity to right whatever wrong there is. I think it’s a great idea that places do get graded and inspected” MacDonald said.
In response to questions from the paper for a story in April Ovcharovich indicated that the health unit strives to work with businesses but that their primary objective is public safety.
“While public health inspectors want to work with businesses to ensure all rules are followed their biggest task and responsibility is to ensure the public’s health is protected” he wrote in an email to the paper.
“They can issue warnings write tickets issue compliance orders or closure orders if there is a significant risk to the public.”
Reader response to the CheckINspection website was positive. In a question posted on the Haliburton Echo’s Facebook page readers said they supported the new program. A couple of responses indicated there wasn’t enough information about inspections to make it useful.
That will be changing as more inspections are done.
“The new rules coming into effect on July 1 will increase awareness about inspection results (including business closures) since all health inspection reports going back to the start of this year (Jan. 1 2018) will be posted on a new public website” Ovcharovich said in April. “Inspection reports for the business from the previous two years will stay online so there will be a history of past inspections – not just the most recent one – that local residents can access.”
Businesses are inspected on varying schedules depending on their level of risk. Full-service restaurants are considered high risk and are inspected every four months. A convenience store is classified as low risk and is visited by an inspector once a year for example.
Go to www.hkprcheckINspection.ca to access the new service.