VICTORIA -- British Columbia’s minister of labour says the province has been ramping up safety inspections as more businesses begin to reopen after the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister Harry Bains called the coronavirus pandemic "a global tragedy" on Thursday, outlining how the virus has damaged economies in B.C. and around the world.

Bains stressed, however, that the province is ready to return to business and return to low unemployment numbers in as safe a manner as possible.

"B.C. fared well and is now well positioned to lead in the nation's recovery effort," Bains told reporters from Vancouver.

On Friday, WorkSafeBC laid out rules for the food services, personal services and retail industries as those sectors began to reopen this week.

The rules include requiring masks for some workers and customers, installing Plexiglas barriers and limiting the number of customers allowed inside a business.

Bains called the guidelines "a starting point" only, saying they "were never intended as a silver bullet, one-size-fits-all solution."

He said it's now incumbent on business owners to set their own rules in accordance with the guidelines, and added that random safety inspections of all businesses will be a mainstay of the province's restart plan.

"Every business that is reopening, or that has already opened, are subject to those inspections because we want to make sure that there is no second wave," Bains said.

The labour minister said there are penalties that can be imposed against businesses that fail to follow the provincial guidelines but said "our preference would be to work with them, because this is not normal."

Bains said the province has already conducted more than 15,000 business safety inspections in the first few months of 2020, compared to just over 10,000 inspections in all of 2019.

Bains said the province's reopening guidelines have been viewed more than a half-million times, adding that reopening the province will not be a matter of "flipping on a switch," but rather "is more like turning up the dial."