Workers in Ontario and Quebec filed thousands of complaints about unsafe working conditions as the novel coronavirus swept across Canada and pounded the country’s two most populous provinces, according to government statistics obtained by Global News.

There were more than 5,700 complaints related to COVID-19 in both provinces, with more than three-quarters filed in Ontario.

The provinces did not disclose details of the total number of COVID-related investigations, but confirmed there were 23 work refusals that met the provincial criteria.

Twenty-two of those work refusal cases were in Quebec, while just one was accepted in Ontario.

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In Ontario, labour inspectors completed 8,600 field inspections. Of those, 4,000 were conducted in-person and more than 4,600 were conducted remotely.

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With a possible second wave of COVID-19 on the horizon, experts say the provinces need to take greater steps to improve worker safety including more robust visits from health and safety inspectors.

“There have been a disturbingly high number of cases of work-related COVID-19 cases where you see a lot of front-line workers,